- Jan 17, 2019
The Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes an individual who consistently helps the Chamber achieve its goals.
Robyn Kole is not a person who seeks the spotlight, but she can always be found working quietly and tirelessly to make the Chamber welcoming and inclusive. As an Ambassador and an active event committee volunteer, she goes above and beyond to help new members and guests feel comfortable. In the new year, she is stepping up to join the Board of Directors, contributing her expertise as a CPA as well as her personal empathy for the well-being of the organization and its members. She firmly believes that volunteering has made her Chamber experience far more valuable and enjoyable for her.
A partner at Karlin, Kerschner, Sharpe & Company LLP, Kole joined the Chamber in 2013. When she thinks back to her first First Friday breakfast, she remembers feeling overwhelmed. As someone with a reserved personality, she felt awkward approaching strangers in such a large group. Those early nerves inspire her today to reach out to new people taking their first steps in networking.
“When I go to events now, I always try to look for the people who are standing there alone,” she explains. “I know how hard it can be to walk up and talk to people you don’t know. The truth is that everyone is happy to talk with you once you get started.”
As she continued to attend large Chamber events, a member suggested that signing up for a committee would be a helpful way to get to know people. Kole quickly found that the small group dynamic of the committees, where members worked together on specific projects, made it easy to build connections that grew into true friendships. Helping to plan both the Auction & Taste and the Golf Outing enhanced her Chamber experience: “Those relationships make it more fun, plus it helps you get to know what’s going on in the organization.”
It also has been a journey of personal growth. “Selling raffle tickets was a very intimidating assignment at first,” she recalls, “but it helped me get out of my comfort zone and meet new people in the process.” Being an Ambassador for the past three years has enabled her to make many new members and guests feel welcome at the Chamber.
“Not all influencers are obvious!” explains Kathi Quinn, Chamber membership director. “Robyn Kole has been a quiet force at the Chamber as a long-time active member, as an Ambassador, and now a board director. She is smart, funny and kind! As an Ambassador she jumped in to make sure prospective and new members have an amazing experience.”
One of the great professional benefits of her Chamber involvement has been the network of referrals available to her clients. Her Chamber relationships make her a great resource to her clients, whatever services they need. “They say ‘Robyn knows everybody’ which has become a real asset to my business.”
Kole also took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the community in the Chamber’s Leadership Northbrook Program in 2015. Even after living in Northbrook for more than 25 years, Leadership “showed me parts of Northbrook that I never knew existed.”
As a new Board member, Kole is looking forward to learning more about the Village. She is excited to hear first-hand about new developments at the Village, Library and Park District, as well as the Chamber itself. “The CPA in me really likes to see the inner workings of things,” says Robyn. “I tend to do a lot of listening before I speak, but I hope I will be able to offer some constructive ideas based on what I learn.”