‘You can live in a community or you can be an active member of it’: She chooses the latter

It was over ten years ago when Korissa Wilkins was living the big city life in Chicago. And the Port Huron native was flourishing. One of the world’s largest manufacturers of wind turbines, the Nordex Group, had opened their North American headquarters there and Wilkins was charged with helping to staff it. She says she was the ninth employee hired at Nordex USA; Wilkins hired 150 more.

For all her success there, Wilkins felt the pull of home. She wanted to be near her family and to live in a more tight-knit community, a place where she felt she could make an impact. And sometimes it’s just about the simple joy of being able to walk into the local grocery store and knowing her neighbors there. So, in 2010, back to the Blue Water Area it was, where she now lives with her husband Evan and the family dog.

“That’s my passion: people and place. I get a charge from that. It’s simple but significant,” Wilkins says. “And my enthusiasm continues to grow for this community where I’ve come from. It’s only right to be giving back where I can.”

And give back she has. At just 34 years old, Wilkins is a board member for nine community organizations, including Blue Meets Green, Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce, Blue Water Young Professionals, Marwood Nursing & Rehab, McMorran Place Commission, Port Huron Downtown Development Authority, St. Clair County Child Abuse and Neglect Council, St. Clair County Community Foundation, and St. Clair County Economic Development Alliance.

She’s also a self-described serial volunteer; she’s most recently been volunteering at COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

“My friends make fun of me [for how busy I am],” she says. “But I volunteer whenever I can.”

Gerry Kramer, Korissa Wilkins, and the Community Foundation’s Randy Maiers (from left to right)But for all the good work she’s done, Wilkins isn’t necessarily comfortable with drawing too much attention to herself. She says she prefers to remain a “quiet volunteer,” a humble and modest request. It’s a trait that must run in the family. Her uncle, Gerry Kramer, is a champion of the Blue Water Area, having given back in a myriad of ways, be it on the numerous boards where he sits or any number of the charitable donations he and his family have made over the years.

For all of his work, Kramer won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2014 Spirit of Port Huron awards ceremony. Still, he prefers the focus remain on the organizations and causes — the people and the places — that he’s passionate about, and not himself.

“That’s been one of the things that’s been instilled in me since a young age,” Wilkins says. “I grew up admiring my uncle’s work in the community. He taught me that you can live in a community or you can be an active member of it.”

Wilkins has followed in her uncle’s footsteps in a number of ways, including her involvement in the community but in her professional life, too. Wilkins is an associate broker at Kramer Commercial Realty, her uncle’s company.

Wilkins views her professional life in the same terms as she does her volunteer work, as an opportunity to serve the community. Just like her uncle, Wilkins believes in the power of entrepreneurship, finding a passion for connecting entrepreneurs with commercial properties, which in turn lifts the community through small business.

“Real estate is in our blood. It goes back to genuinely caring for people. That entrepreneurial spirit gets us excited,” Wilkins says about her working for her uncle.

“And it’s fun to walk in and quiz one of my role models. He’s very humble but that’s what you do, you take care of your community and its people.”

Wilkins followed in another of her uncle Gerry’s footsteps recently when she became a board member of the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, where he himself has been on the board for several years now.

“With the Community Foundation, I’m still learning a lot. I thought I understood what the Community Foundation did but it’s nowhere near it. The amount of grants and programs they’re involved in is remarkable,” she says. “Being asked to be on the board is an honor.”
“My friends make fun of me [for how busy I am],” Wilkins says. “But I volunteer whenever I can.”

Wilkins’s uncle likes to joke with her about how she’s doing what he used to do at her age, running from one volunteer opportunity to the next, immersing herself in her community while serving on nine different boards. It’s a quality that she says she’s always admired in him: If you commit to something, do it well and see it all the way through. Things can only get better or improve when you try.

As for the future?

“I’m going to continue on this path of real estate and Kramer is leading the way,” Wilkins says. “We’re going to continue enhancing commercial real estate in the area and make a community impact along the way. It all works together.”