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Another TTN Chapter Is Born…And It All Began In The Library

October 26, 2015

By Marcia Smalley, TTN PR Team Member

Evelyn Noennig and her team in Billings, Montana, are bringing The Transition Network to their community. And it started with a trip to the library. I recently asked Evelyn to think back on how she got from there to here, to beginning a TTN chapter in the first place. Her first response: she’s taking Executive Director Susan Collins’ advice to “just have fun with this.”Our inspiring conversation went from there.

Marcia: How did you learn about The Transition Network? 

Evelyn: I was volunteering at an event at our library back in the spring of 2014.  I found the book (Smart Women Don’t Retire, They Break Free) in the retirement section. I read it, investigated the web site and clicked on the button…oh, that darn button.

MS: What drew you to that particular book?

EN: It was the whole idea about “smart women.” Women who work really hard to make conscious decisions. The “breaking free” part meant that certain personas tend to carry people through life. Just because I’m 60 doesn’t mean I’m old! What more is there out there?

MS: So what brought you to this point and to the decision to form a chapter?

EN: That button on the website.  Start your own chapter…you can do it, you can do it.  It kept nagging at me. Evelyn had been volunteering a lot over the years and had already been thinking about doing something different, or at least differently. As that button called to her, she thought, “Maybe this is the something different.”
She had also been making close connections with a group of women in the last 10 years, joining forces with them to do things like build that new library in Billings. She was experiencing first hand the power of what women can accomplish together and the legacy they can leave. And Evelyn knows the people in the community that could help her successfully take a TTN chapter forward. As she explains, “I started talking to my closest friends, getting their input and having them check out the book and the website.  I had 3 of them on board…then I went to my boss (at the local newspaper, Billings Gazette) to get his blessing because I knew this was going to take some effort and some of my work time. Plus, I knew he would have good input if he thought I was crazy. “I got his blessing, so on June 19, 2014, I wrote an email to Susan and introduced myself and gave her some information on Billings and hoped she didn’t think I was crazy thinking we could get a chapter started in Montana.” Far from it! Things really started to take off.
Evelyn soon realized that her full time work at the newspaper dovetailed beautifully with her intention to form a TTN chapter. This included her team bringing Suzanne Braun Levine, first editor of Ms. magazine, to Billings to speak at a community luncheon event. In a humorous twist, while the newspaper was happy to publish an article about Evelyn’s journey with TTN, they mistakenly printed it on the obituary page! As fate would have it, this ended up being a great marketing strategy since the story garnered several inquiries from relieved readers who were glad, as she puts it, that she “didn’t die!”Evelyn is clearly devoted to TTN’s mission.

“For me, (starting a local chapter) was the opportunity to direct my what’s next. To insure my retirement days were filled with options, to give other women without support, as I had been once, the opportunity to experience what it is to give, share, receive and rejoice with others in good times and sad times…to think about what we need as opposed to what we all have done for years—think of others first.” Her efforts have translated to over 200 women on her email list in only a little more than a year.

MS: What does being able to accomplish that mean to you?

EN: There’s an interest. We need to move fast enough now to keep them interested. As Susan says, we are moving at turbo speed!  We had over 100 people come to our first meeting in February.  50 carried the newspaper article with them! I asked Evelyn about the difference between aligning with TTN and simply staying busy or volunteering for another entity. That’s when she shared what I call a “bingo moment:” a moment that sums it all up. Evelyn said, “You have more commitment to something you create. You’re not just filling another hour in your day. I think we have a lot of women who are floundering, and we need to get them grounded, to find that purposeful place where they feel grounded and ready to grow again.“How do I continue to be active, engaged, and not just walk away and die. Is any of (what I’m involved in) going to give me a sense of continued life, moving forward, instead of just all of a sudden you’re DONE.” My thoughts exactly. At this time in life, do you just stop and put everything on hold? Our generation has never been “on hold.” Evelyn agrees. She told me, “That was a scary thought. It put a knot in my stomach. By the time I retire (hopefully in 2018), this chapter will be having monthly meetings along with SIGS and Peer Groups, engaging our member (who are) having fun and moving forward in their transitions.  Then I can transition into a member who enjoys the fruits of our labor.” 
 
MS: What do you think it will take to make your vision a reality?

EN: It will continue to take a strategic plan of engaging the right people for the right job, coordinating SIG groups and getting them up and running then move on to get Peer Groups up and running. All the while (we’ll be) educating those interested in the value of the organization through our meetings. This chapter will look like what it means to do this in Billings. I know Billings is full of TTN ladies.  I just need to get them together to Connect, Discover and Impact their future. It’s taking one bite of the elephant at a time. We didn’t try to launch everything at once; we get our arms around a piece at a time. We are on our way!