We Love Where We Live: Women Who Pursue Purpose with Passion in Terre Haute

In preparation for the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce’s first Terre Haute Women’s Conference,  I (Rachael) have been reflecting on why I love living in Terre Haute. The fact that I love where I live isn’t new news. I’ve built the Haute Happenings website and community around the idea that a small, rural part of Indiana is a great place to live.   In Terre Haute, I am doing what I love with great satisfaction. I choose to see the best in Terre Haute. And guess what? I’m not alone. Today I get to introduce you to ten other women who have found the sweet spot where their passion and purpose intersect right here in Terre Haute. What’s more, these leaders represent countless other families, women, professionals, children, and individuals who are thriving in our community.

Love Where You Live: When Passion Meets Purpose

Dr. Jennifer Mueller, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 

Although I never envisioned myself settling down in Terre Haute, I have found it to be a great place to live and am fortunate to be here. Not only do I have a fulfilling career educating very bright and driven young people, I am also part of a supportive community that has proved to be invaluable to myself and my family.

Rachel Hellmann, Artist

Moving back to Terre Haute from Boston 5 years ago allowed my husband and I to build the type of life that we wanted to have. I transitioned from teaching to full-time work in my studio and he was able to decrease his workload to be with our kids after school. We even have space to have a garden.

Jessica Rice, Regional Foster Care Supervisor at the Indiana Department of Child Services

It is so hard to put into words how my experiences have changed my life! So many tell me they just don’t know how I do my job, or how heartbreaking it must be. The truth? Yes it is hard, and some days it is sad, some days it stretches me in ways that I never imagined. But what a privilege it is to work with amazing people who support me and lift me up every day. Families start with us during very challenging parts of their lives, what a joy and privilege it is to see families and children overcome such great obstacles, it is amazing to even have a tiny part of that. And talk about a community that comes through for families and children, wow!  Churches stepping in and meeting the needs of families and children, foster families opening their hearts and homes to children needing a safe loving home, foster families opening clothes closets to help meet the clothing needs of foster children, volunteers delivering home cooked meals to foster families, and people volunteering to become a CASA. My list could go on and on about how the amazing people of Terre Haute come through for their community! I definitely can say with pride that I love where I live.

Susan Turner, Executive Director of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum

My husband and I love living in Terre Haute. Neither of us are originally from here, but we call it home. I love that I can walk into Baesler’s Market and see people I know AND go to amazing theater productions in the same town. I think those who have stepped up to help lead our community are doing a great job at bringing interesting events to the community and building our quality of place. From a professional standpoint, I’ve been blessed to work in the Wabash Valley. I moved back here when I was 25-years-old and have worked hard to build my career. I’m not sure I would have had the depth and breadth of experiences in a larger city. Each opportunity has come with some amazing experiences because I was willing to say, “YES!” And, I’ve built a wonderful network of strong women, of all ages, who support me professionally and personally. I think that is something really special about living in Terre Haute.

Eleanor Ramseier, Director of Camp Navigate

People often ask me why I created Camp Navigate.  My answer is always the same: I love our community and the future hope of our community.  All three of our children, now adults, were raised in Terre Haute and thrived under the opportunities that are offered here.  They excelled under great teachers, coaches and administrators, who stood beside them cheering them on.  We have the uniqueness of living and raising our youth in a community that offers the safety net of a small hometown atmosphere, yet provides the benefits and amenities of a much larger community. It seems that no matter what our neighbors and friends agree or disagree on, one thing that is a common thread amongst all of us, is that Terre Haute is a great place to raise a family!  And my hope is to help give back to a community that has blessed my family so very much!  At Camp Navigate we hope to create great memories for children as we help develop them into young adults that will choose to work hard and dream big dreams for this place we all call home!

Lauren Hackert, Community Relations Officer of MACC and Lending Assistant at the Vigo County Public Library

We moved to Terre Haute from a larger city when my daughter was one year old, to be closer to family. During the moving process, I was convinced I needed to find a full-time job to help support our family, because it had been necessary where we’d lived before (Memphis). I was thrilled to discover that the cost of living in Terre Haute was so much lower, and I would be able to realize my dream of being home with my children while they grow.

Dr. Karen Goeller, Deputy Superintendent of the Vigo County School Corporation

As a part of the Vigo County School Corporation, we are so very fortunate to be surrounded by caring and compassionate community members who give back to our students.  Our third grade state reading scores are above the state average and the highest in urban district comparisons. Yes, because of outstanding teachers, but also because of the extraordinary efforts of individual community members and local groups who volunteer their time and talents.  The spirit of giving back to our youngest citizens is a powerful piece in building and sustaining our healthy and vibrant community.

Kera Jeffers, Owner of Haute House Love

I came to Terre Haute seven years ago. I didn’t move here nicely. In fact, I kicked and screamed like a toddler being refused candy for dinner. I was sure that there was nothing (and no one) here for me. At the time I was a first time stay-at-home mom. It was also the middle of tax season so my husband was working crazy hours. I was miserable and stir crazy. After about a month of living here I decided to venture out for toddler story time at the local library. Lo and behold, the first person I met was Rachael Brown herself. In time, Rachael, myself, and a few other stay at home mom friends started a weekly playgroup. I began feeling a strong attachment to this town that I once felt distant and disconnected from. About 3 years ago we realized that we had outgrown our current home, and so began the plans to build a self-contracted dream home. We were officially claiming to be Hautians for life! What followed that decision was years of planning and designing, delays and budgeting, frustration and joy. And I LOVED it! It stirred up inside of me a passion that I had been holding deep in my heart since I was a teenager. I wanted to design! In October 2018, I launched Haute House Love, a local and e-design/decorating business that has taken myself and my family by storm.

Today I am blessed to be living out my dream with people and clients that I adore in a town that I once felt no potential in. I’ve learned to embrace my community and truly learn that living here is exactly what you make it. I have chosen to make it good.

Rhonda Mitchell,  KinderCenter

Before living in Terre Haute, I had always lived in much larger cities and was not super excited about living in a place with only one mall and no Target!  Teaching has always been my passion.  When we moved here, I was offered elementary music positions, but I turned them down.  I felt there was something else here for me.  I taught private piano lessons for children and ISU students.  I enjoyed both.  But then I was asked to teach Kindermusik classes in the program that was then housed at ISU.  I LOVED it!  I honestly can say I felt that I found my calling.  Eventually, it became my own business.  I rented space from First Congregational Church for four years and then moved to the space where I am now on the east side of Terre Haute.  This progression and move can happen in a town the size of Terre Haute that would be much more difficult or impossible in a larger city.  I have learned to love the rural feel of Terre Haute.  I love that I can readily get fresh eggs, organic veggies, and grass fed meat directly from the farm and the farmer.  It is a safe place to live and no traffic worries – so long as there isn’t a train!  I hope that what I am doing gives back to the community and the families in the community I serve.  It is an honor to be doing what I do.

Leah Singer, Freelance Writer

As a writer, I’ve found Terre Haute has an abundance of stories to tell. So many people asked if moving to a small town would mean I wouldn’t have enough things to write about. The opposite is true. There are so many great stories about people, small businesses, local community members that are doing amazing things that people inside, and outside of, Terre Haute need to know about.

Living in a place with four seasons and where the weather changes, I’ve come to love the outdoors and discovered my passion for running. Terre Haute has so many trails, parks and beautiful scenery that inspires me to be outside and moving in nature. Before moving to Indiana, I never ran. Now I run upwards of 20 miles per week and I have no intention of stopping. Read more about why Leah’s family loved moving from San Diego to Terre Haute here. 


One final note: some pictures need no explanation, but I feel this one does. It’s of friends (used without their permission–I’ll ask forgiveness later) at my 30th birthday party a few years ago. Why do they look so crazy? Because they are crazy. And also because it was a Murder Mystery party at a castle (You can read about the adventure we had at Clayshire Castle and find out how to host your own murder mystery party here). 

These friends represent a circle that includes parents of my kids’ friends, friends I know only from online interactions, business associates, family, my beloved neighbors, the foster and adopt community, my church, my mom group, exercise partners, and those of us who identify as the proverbial soccer mom.

No matter how these circles expand and contract, this sentiment always rings true for me: I love my people, and my people help me to love this place.

Thank you to each and every person who follows Haute Happenings. Your contributions to our community are so valuable. We need you, and I appreciate you. You are my people who help me to love where I live.

I hope you love where you live, too.