For Cheryl Isaac, the road to Brunswick has been a long one. A native of Liberia, Isaac and her family fled the war-torn nation in the 1990s in search of a better life.
“There was a lot of strife. I went through two wars. I went through the first Liberian Civil War which was from 1990 to 1996,” she said. “My family was looking for change and more opportunities, especially for education. So we were fortunate enough to come here.”
After moving to America, Isaac attended high school and college. She acclimated well, eventually going to banking school. After working as a senior banker and licensed financial advisor, Isaac and her husband, Kendall, who is an attorney, created the Isaac Firm, which focused on providing small business planning and legal services.
In addition, Isaac founded the Non-Profit Center for Business, which helps those businesses.
It became a passion that would guide her future, eventually leading to Georgia and then to the Golden Isles.
“I had the opportunity to be in Fort Valley and then Albany. While we were there we had been coming to St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island,” Isaac said. “But we weren’t that familiar with Brunswick.”
Isaac actually discovered the city while working as a consultant in the nonprofit sector. She was exploring a website called Work for Good, which helps to match professionals looking for jobs in nonprofits. That is where she found Brunswick’s STAR Foundation, which was in need of a new director.
Founded 21 years ago by Wally and Katie Orrel and Ellen Murphy, the organization offers a variety of training programs for low income individuals looking to expand their skills and job marketability.
When Isaac discovered the organization, Katie Orrel and Murphy, who are sisters, were stepping down and the organization was in need of new leadership.
“I went online and saw the STAR Foundation. It had the education, training and job readiness … really everything that my background is … I was a financial planner and a professor. And I always wanted to work with people who are looking to move from one level to the next,” she said. “It really offered everything.”
Isaac traveled to Brunswick and engaged in a half day interview process. During that time, she met with the board of directors. Almost immediately, Isaac knew she had found her new home.
“They were all wonderful. They were all so professional and friendly, which doesn’t always go together. We went and had coffee at Wake Up Coffee. It was a nice way for me to get to know Brunswick a little,” she said.
“I spent the day thinking about how wonderful it was … it really felt organic. Later on I was telling my friends that everyone here felt like family. I told them if they offered me the job I was going to take it.”
They did just that and she happily accepted. Isaac has spent the past few weeks moving and getting settled. She began her new job on Monday and is already excited by what she has seen.
“Katie and Ellen are just great. I wanted to be able to come in while they were still here and see what they do. I’ve been really getting hands on with them so it’s not just me learning about the operational aspect. I’ve learned a lot about the core values of the organization,” she said.
Isaac hopes to build on the framework previously laid and do even more to engage young people in the community.
“One of the things I’m really looking at is getting the younger groups involved. The STAR Foundation is all about helping people reach their greatest potential,” she said.
“I think society sometimes forgets that some people don’t go to college or even high school. We want to get them to the next level so we are focusing on that and more youth programs to help them.”