After a five-week internship with Downtown Washington Inc. Jessica Reisenbichler, of Jackson, said she’s learned a lot from the local nonprofit organization.
Reisenbichler, a Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) student, recently completed a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Bachelor of Science in historic preservation.
The internship, which ends this Friday, was required as part of her classes. She also minored in German and writing. This fall, she will start working on master’s degree in public history.
Though she’s from Southeast Missouri, Reisenbichler said she was familiar with Washington and its downtown group. Bridgette Epple, executive director of Downtown Washington Inc., is an alumna of the historic preservation program and often speaks to classes at SEMO.
“I chose to come to Washington because it’s awesome,” Reisenbichler said. “Bridgette actually turned me on to Main Street.”
Downtown Washington Inc. is a National Main Street program, which is a division of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, as well as a Missouri Main Street program, a nonprofit linked to the State of Missouri Department of Economic Development.
During her time with the downtown organization, Reisenbichler worked on two grants — one through the state historic preservation office. If that grant is received, the downtown group will be able to do more work with some of the historic districts here, as well as put more buildings on the national register of historic places, Reisenbichler explained.
The second is a Neighborhood Assistance Program grant, which would help fund multiple projects including redoing building facades, getting Wi-Fi downtown, building kiosks and other projects.
Reisenbichler also helped to redesign the group’s sponsorship brochure and researched a Main Street challenge in Biddeford, Maine, to see if the program could be implemented in Washington. The challenge would help get new businesses in the Downtown area.
“I think each project that she worked on was important,” Epple said. “Grant writing is a huge bonus to have when you work for a nonprofit.”
Epple added that she tried to give Reisenbichler experience with each of the Main Street program’s four-point approach, which includes design, organization, promotion and economic restructuring.
Danielle Grotewiel, of Downtown Washington Inc., said Reisenbichler has tackled a lot in her short time with the organization.
“Her goal is to be in a Main Street program. She got a fantastic taste following Bridgette around,” she said.
Reisenbichler said she was made an honorary Jaycees member and volunteered during her stay in Washington.
Networking also was an important part of the internship.
Reisenbichler said she learned that grant writing takes a lot of work and that it’s important to be a part of your community.
“Washington won the Great American Main Street Award for a reason,” she said. “I can tell downtown is where people go if they want to hang out or go out to eat or have a meeting. It’s fun to see how everyone interacts with each other and how that branches out to bring others downtown.”
Grotewiel said she hopes that Reisenbichler learned that hard work will always pay off, that you can be great friends with your co-workers, you can have fun at work and support your community through the principals of the Main Street organization.
“I hope she sees that it doesn’t take a lot of people to accomplish very big things,” she said. “A small group of very dedicated people can do really great things.”
Epple said she is confident Reisenbichler has the skills to be a downtown revitalization professional.
“I feel she’ll be quite successful,” Epple said, adding that Reisenbichler’s hometown of Jackson would be very lucky to have her build a program from the ground up.
Reisenbichler said she will definitely come back to Washington and plans to bring her family here in August.