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This article, as part of our Why NEPA? series, was contributed by The Scranton Plan as part of their Rediscover Scranton initiative.
“I've found that my own personal fulfillment is determined not by what surrounds me but by who surrounds me.”
An affinity for all things arts and culture initially drew Lackawanna County native and current Waverly resident, Alexandra MacNamara away from NEPA. The Wyoming Seminary alum directed her passions eastward to New York City. She earned a Fine Arts degree from the School of Visual Arts, and followed with a Masters from the vaunted Sotheby’s Institute of Art.
Then, she came back home… for a while.
Alexandra held influential positions in the arts at Wyoming Seminary’s Buckingham Performing Arts Center and the Waverly Community House. She coordinated theatrical events and a film festival. For MacNamara, it was all about preserving, growing and making visual and performing arts approachable and accessible in NEPA.
Then, in 2019, she landed a job in Seattle and off she went. About a year later, as COVID-19 took hold on the west coast, she knew she needed to be close to those she loved. She made her way back to Northeastern Pennsylvania – back to her family, her friends, old colleagues… home.
Today, Alexandra is the Director of Marketing and Resource Development at Caring Communities. The Wilkes-Barre nonprofit provides confidential HIV/STD testing and case management. We caught up with McNamara back in January. We welcomed her back home and asked the important questions, like why NEPA?
How long have you lived in NEPA?
I lived in Lackawanna County until I was 18 years old. I went to college and graduate school in New York City and then returned to the area, for the first time, in 2013. In the spring of 2019, I moved to Seattle, Washington, and moved back to NEPA for the second time in September of 2020.
Do you own your own business, work for a local employer or remote work from NEPA?
I’m the Director of Marketing and Resource Development at Caring Communities, a nonprofit organization that provides free and confidential HIV/STD testing and case management services to a 12-county service area throughout Northeast and North Central Pennsylvania. Our mission is to provide a system of comprehensive services to prevent, test and treat public health disparities while creating educated, stigma-free communities.
What brought you back home to NEPA?
Seattle was the first city in the United States where people contracted COVID-19. I was fortunate enough to have an incredible network of very close friends out there, and we were able to support each other during this frightening, uncertain time, but it was incredibly difficult to be away from my family and friends. It was already hard to be across the country from so many people I love, but as the death toll continued to rise, travel restrictions were implemented and everyone went into lockdown, the worry, fear and “what if” scenarios, as felt by everyone, became all-consuming. I was furloughed from my position in Seattle in March, which left me with lots of time to talk and Facetime with friends and family every day, but the distance of 3,000 miles began to feel insurmountable.
Like everyone, I was craving stability and familiarity, and I didn’t know what the next week would bring, let alone the next year, so I decided to move back to the East Coast. While I was packing up my apartment, I was also endlessly searching for jobs in PA and the Tri-State area. When I came across the job listing for Caring Communities, I felt as though I had found the exact career that I had been dreaming of. I moved back on September 1st and officially joined the agency on October 5th. I’m beyond grateful for my job. I work with brilliant, dedicated, open-minded individuals who inspire me every day, and together we work tirelessly to provide the best possible care to anyone and everyone who is in need of our services.
What’s your favorite thing about NEPA?
My favorite thing about NEPA is the people. As I’ve aged, I’ve had the pleasure and pain of learning many invaluable lessons that have all brought me to a time in my life where I truly feel happy and at peace. I’ve found that my own personal fulfillment is determined not by what surrounds me but by who surrounds me.
Did anything surprise you by moving back to NEPA?
I know that a lot of people say, “There’s so much opportunity here!” but to someone who feels unsettled or discouraged in their career, that can sound vague or make them feel like all of that opportunity must be for someone else. In the last year, I applied to over 100 positions all over the country. Finding out that the career of my dreams was located on the Public Square in Wilkes-Barre was the surprise of a lifetime.
What’s next for you?
I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the community here. I want to continue to get involved with organizations that believe in moving this area forward.
Where do you see NEPA heading?
I have never felt as excited and hopeful for the future of this area as I do today. There is a tremendous influx of people moving here from other states and cities, and locals are more motivated than ever to get out and enjoy all of the natural beauty that surrounds us and support the incredible small businesses that they love in order to help them weather this storm. I believe these two factors could lead to some really impressive growth and positive change for the area.
The people of NEPA exude a remarkable kindness and warmth unlike anywhere else. I think that people sometimes mistake somewhere that holds tradition in such high regard as stagnant, but people are embracing new businesses and experiences here like never before. There truly is a lot of opportunity in NEPA.