Kathleen recently chose to move back to her hometown of Hopewell, OH, a small town near Zanesville, after nearly 10 years spent living away, part of it in Columbus working at OSU Medical Center. “I’m happy to be back close with my family, and I see much opportunity in the area. Zanesville continues to grow, and offers a big-city feel with the heart of a small town,” Kathleen says. Hopewell’s rural feel gives Kathleen a sense of being away without being disconnected.
Kathleen grew-up on 250 acres of land. Most of her family lived just a few minutes away. Her family had lived in the area for several generations and even the neighbors were familiar. Kathleen says living in Hopewell played a large factor in her childhood, providing a strong sense of ‘home’. “I felt that there was always a sense of belonging and responsibility among different families that lived in the area to assist one another in the time of need. In the winters people would help clear one another’s drive ways with a snow plow, or in the Spring help people get pull their tractor out of the mud. I always felt very safe in Hopewell and had familiar faces around.”
Kathleen left Hopewell in 2010 for college to attend Muskingum University. After graduating, she moved to Columbus where she lived for five years while working at OSU Medical Center and completing her MSW degree at Ohio State. While attending Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio, Kathleen said she didn’t feel that far away from home; New Concord is a small town with cultural similarities to Hopewell. It wasn’t until she moved to Columbus that she really felt the difference and missed the ability to spend time outdoors without neighbors and the slower pace of Hopewell.
Kathleen made the decision to leave Columbus and move back to her hometown this past year when her aunt passed away, leaving her home available to Kathleen and giving her an opportunity to make the move she was hoping would happen eventually. Kathleen said for many years she was “hopeful to return home” to her roots.
Kathleen is currently still employed with The James Cancer Hospital, affiliated with The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. She commutes for work each day, and shared that she enjoys the best of both worlds: staying connected with Columbus for work, but going home to Hopewell at the end of each day.
A “boomerang” refers to someone who leaves their hometown and returns at a later time. The number of “boomerangs,” like Kathleen, are increasing in Ohio’s small and medium-sized cities as native sons and daughters return to put down roots in communities where they grew up. There are many reasons for one to “boomerang,” but the most common involve a person leaving for education or a job and returning home after several years to take advantage of lower costs of living and existing family and community ties. Smaller cities recognize the value of boomerang residents in stemming population loss, attracting talent, and boosting the community’s tax base and vitality, and often develop strategies to attract them back home. These strategies often highlight advantages like lower costs of living and housing, community connections, family amenities, and a slower pace.