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Maegan Zielinski of Grassroots Development – Why NEPA? image
January 30, 2024
Maegan Zielinski of Grassroots Development – Why NEPA?
Jonathan Davies

“It feels like home. It feels like I’m supposed to be here.”

Maegan Zielinski was born and raised in Bel Air, Maryland. She’s a southern girl, technically, but she knows her way around a pierogi – Polish background, plenty of family in the Nanticoke area. Somehow those dots always seem to connect.

She was an easygoing, bike-ridin’, sports-playin’, stay-outside-all-day kind of a kid with an admitted flair for the dramatic. Maegan kept it close to home for as long as she could. She graduated from the U of Maryland. Got a job and immediately knew she wanted more. Enter a random, surprise move across the U.S. to Austin, Texas. Once plugged in, she got right to work in public health, namely homeless services, and enrolled in graduate school at the U of North Texas. Soon, as they often do, home, family, friends, familiarity started calling. Another pick-up-and-go back to the east coast ensued. Hey, there’s that flair for the dramatic!

She landed in Wilmington, North Carolina. She continued her work in public health, but randomly, via family, she started getting involved with local, NEPA businesses and community organizations, and kind of discovered that she had a thing for marketing. She also came to realize that NEPA had so much more to offer. Then, you guessed it. Another move. This time to Wilkes-Barre. She bought a house. She’s fostering kittens. She’s managing marketing for NEPA’rogi and Grassroots Development. And she’s falling in love with the people and the mountains (and the food).

We caught up with Maegan at Kirby Park, one of her favorite places, on a balmy November morning. We got her take on the region as a NEPA transplant, and squeezed in a question or two, like Why NEPA?


How long have you lived in NEPA?

A year and some change (laughs). A year and a half, I guess.

What do you love about your town?

There’s a lot. First of all, I love the outdoor stuff. I love all of the nature, and the hiking and the mountains and the activities you can do here. I feel like there’s so much, and I haven’t even experienced half of the hiking that’s here, you know? Like every single weekend I’m doing something. Even during the week, I was able to get involved in so much — volunteer work and networking and meeting people and new opportunities. Like I was able to present at the Chamber’s Young Professionals Conference. I was able to obviously do this (be interviewed by DiscoverNEPA) which is awesome! This is such a huge win for me, personally. I love you guys.

I just like that there is so much to do. There are always plenty of events going on. There are so many really cool organizations to get involved with. I mean, in all of the good ways, it feels like a small town, but we definitely have all of the benefits of a much larger area as well. And I love that.

What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?

Oh my god, my favorite restaurant? Jeez, there’s a lot of good food here. Which is another thing I love, there’s so much good food here. It’s really hard to choose. Let’s see. That might take me a minute… Ok. I feel like the first place that comes to mind might be Fort Café. Oh it’s so good — great pastas and bar food like their pizza and wings, everything… it’s so good. Yeah. Let’s just go with that one and be done.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?

Probably all the outdoors stuff which is why we’re here at Kirby Park on this beautiful day in November (laughs). I mean, look around. There are mountains everywhere. I just love that whole visual part of it. Like you don’t get that everywhere. Trust me, you don’t get that everywhere. I love to hike, I love biking. I’m a part of the WB biker gang, that was another group I joined when I first got here — a bunch of awesome people. All wheels welcome. So, I love doing that. I love going on walks and just being out in the scenery, exploring, being outdoors. That sounds so corny — being one with nature (laughs).

What’s next for you?

Honestly, just continuing to settle in here. I’ve been able to get involved with so much stuff and now I’m sort of figuring out what is best for me. It was kind of this whirlwind when I first came. I’ll do this. I’ll do that. But now I’m kind of shedding a lot of those extra things, and learning to prioritize this or that. My new motto is joy or bust. So, if it doesn’t bring you joy it’s a bust. I have such little free time. So, what I do spend my time on, I want it to be joyful. I want it to be fun. I don’t want it to be stressful or overbearing. Now, over the next year or however long it is, this is what I want to put my time toward.

And on the professional side, I’m just focused on growing our businesses. NEPA’rogi is already expanding into a new location. The whole operation is taking on this whole new life. So, that’s where I’ve been for the last six months. I want to be able to use my experience and really structure it and build it out so we can continue this growth. And same with Grassroots. We’re trying to expand our reach and get more nonprofits and get more accounts. And then hopefully I can leave the whole corporate world behind. Just say goodbye, and work for myself or with NEPArogi and Grassroots. So, if everything goes according to plan, I think that’s where I’ll be.  And I feel like we’re on a good trajectory for that, so I feel really good about those things.

Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

I definitely see it progressing, but I think we definitely need more action doers. We have a lot of that here. I see that there’s a lot of people involved in a lot of things doing good. We need more of that. We need to keep inspiring that next generation of philanthropists and do-good-ers. We need our younger people to stay here and invest in the community and the progress. We need to stay focused on the area’s succession plan and keep changing the narrative here for the better. And that’s why I’m involved in things like the 570 Day Committee. It’s all about celebrating the area and making sure people know how good they have it here. Outside of that, I’m pretty passionate about affordable housing and universal healthcare and things like that, so I would love to see more progress toward that kind of higher-level change. That’s how we get those younger generations to stick around.


Logistically, it was really difficult to be nine hours away and maintain that high level of local involvement I have with these businesses. I can’t imagine it a different way. I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now if I was nine hours away. There’s just no way. In the beginning it was good and it was working, but at some point, you just reach your threshold. Just professionally, the amount of stuff I’m involved in with NEPArogi and Grassroots, I want to physically be here experiencing it all. We’re going to the Multicultural Parade. I love that stuff. I want to be in the middle of this community. I love getting my hands into everything. That’s just not feasible if you’re not geographically here.

Aside from that, I saw the opportunities from being so far away. I saw what I could be involved with. While super unplanned, this move was a little bit easier because I had support here. I had the family. I had the friends. And I had the connections to grow myself personally. It’s just something I never really experienced in the other cities I lived in. Here, it felt so natural and everything sort of fell into place. Not only is this my area, my neighborhood, my street — this is where I bought my house. It’s where I want to plant roots. It was all just too perfect, too serendipitous to ignore.