For a long time, Shiloh Werkmeister said she and her husband had a plaque hanging up in their kitchen, which bore a family motto of sorts – one they told their kids to live by.
“It said, ‘Look around you and see what needs to be done, and then do it,’” Shiloh said.
“That’s really part of the core of who I am,” she added.
Shiloh was recognized on Jan. 24 at the Troy Chamber of Commerce’s annual Installation Banquet, and was named the 2019 Woman of the Year for practicing what that little plaque preached, and for the part she’s played in filling a big gap in Lincoln County services.
Shiloh was born and raised in the Lincoln County area, and after a stint of years spent living in Dallas, Texas, she returned. “I was raised here, my family is here…my roots are here,” Shiloh said. “I like that this community is a community where you can present a need and people will fill it. And not because they feel obligated to, but because they have willing hearts and willing minds and willing hands, and they’re willing to jump in.
“I saw that when I was younger as a kid, and the community has not abandoned that mindset.”
She saw that mentality in her own family, and her father, David Thompson, who she said has done a lot of work with Habitat for Humanity and other charitable organizations.
“I’ve seen how our community has come together to support Bright Futures, which has done amazing things, and the Bread For Life Food Pantry, which serves our community very well,” Shiloh said.
The business community is equally generous when it comes to filling needs, Shiloh said.
“We have wonderful small businesses that don’t act like small businesses,” Shiloh said. “The business community embraces the residents. That was something that was modeled for me by my father and my grandfather through Peoples Bank when I was growing up.”
That model of everyone pitching in is exemplified in the Key Youth Center, with the three women that spearhead the endeavor all bringing different strengths to the table. Cheri Winchester (who was 2018’s Woman of the Year) excels at public speaking, Shiloh said, where she handles the more technical portion and Kristi Gregory works hands-on and boots-on-the-ground to tackle problems and find students that would be good candidates for the Key.
“I think that’s what makes the Key work, and I think most of the organizations that I know that work really well have systems like that in place,” Shiloh said. “If they don’t, they should, because that is what has made us so successful. If we didn’t have those components and the different personalities that did different things, we wouldn’t work.”
The Key opened its doors late last year and started accepting its first few residents. Shiloh said the issues that the Key was looking to solve had kept her awake through more than a few sleepless nights, but once she and her allies began to solidify the path forward with the Key and determine what exactly the center would provide for area kids, “then suddenly I could sleep a little bit because I knew that we were in motion, and it felt right.”
The prospect of starting the Key Youth Center might have been daunting, Shiloh said, but she added that she went in with an optimistic attitude and was “absolutely positive” that everything was going to work out for the best.
“It wasn’t so much hope, it was a lot of faith,” Shiloh said. “It was a lot of faith. I absolutely had faith that this was the right course of action.”
Everything that’s been accomplished is thanks to the teamwork of the Key’s executive board, the community and the support of Shiloh’s family – her husband Steve and their children, Cody, Nick, Brenden, Isaac and Mikayla.
“I couldn’t do any of the things that I do without the support of my family, my husband is amazing,” Shiloh said. “He eats all the instant pot dinners without complaining, and takes the calls of ‘what kind of screwdriver do I need to do this,’ when I call him.”
Shiloh said the Key and its executive board “couldn’t be more grateful” for the support they’ve received by the Lincoln County community.
“We have been thoroughly embraced – which, it was our hope – but I’m so pleased,” Shiloh said.