The Great Balancing Act

Laurel D. Austin

Johnson County has a diverse population, ranging from young families to empty nesters, singles and retirees. Though the makeup of our community represents a patchwork of lifestyles, there is a powerful common thread that connects us and enriches not only our daily lives, but also enhances the quality of life here: involvement.

The points of entry for becoming active within the community are endless. Volunteer jobs with nonprofit organizations are plentiful, and churches and synagogues that do outreach, school committees and even neighborhood activities are all part of the a la carte giving-back menu available to Johnson County residents.

This month our Community Voices 2012 is Michelle Reznik Cole. The energetic mother of two, wife, entrepreneur, lay leader and school volunteer shares with us the ease of getting involved—and the two-minute rule. For Cole, it’s not a question of where and how to volunteer, it’s a matter of balancing her colorful tapestry of myriad community involvement.


Tick Tock, Connect the Dots 
words Michelle Reznik Cole

Two minutes or less.

That’s my response when people ask, “How do you manage to get everything done?” Two minutes or less is the advice I was given by my wonderful husband, Eric. He once said if you can get it done in two minutes or less, do it—don’t procrastinate!

One of the many wonderful things about living in Overland Park is the feeling of community. There are so many opportunities to become involved through the workplace, through volunteering and through the school system that helps connects the dots for all of us in our busy lives.

I am proud to say I do it all—and many things I can do in two minutes or less!

Following graduation from the University of Kansas in 1989, I moved to Overland Park and have never looked back. My husband, Eric, arrived in 1992 and we married in 1995.

We have found Overland Park has a big-city feel minus traffic and hassles. It’s also the perfect place to raise children. Our daughter, Logan, is a freshman at Blue Valley West and our son, Zachary, is a sixth grader at Lakewood Middle School.

Throughout the kids’ elementary school years, I was very involved with the PTO, including everything from committee work to co-president for two years. I truly believe being active in your children’s school makes a huge impact on them. I have continued my involvement as Logan and Zachary have advanced into middle school and high school.

Another area of lay leadership I am passionate about is with Temple, Congregation Beth Torah. I grew up with parents who were very involved in our Temple and a mother who was president while I was in high school. When Eric and I joined Beth Torah five years ago, I immediately asked, “What can I do?”

For the past four years I have co-chaired the Congregation Beth Torah’s annual golf tournament. I was elected to the board of trustees, serving as secretary and currently as president. I love the impact I am making in the Beth Torah community, and my kids enjoy my involvement in their many events and activities. Eric is also extremely supportive of the commitment I’ve made to give back.

A major focus in my life, in addition to my family, is my career. I am director of marketing for Panera Bread of Kansas and Eric is vice president of operations. Together we own a piece of the franchise that includes 32 stores.

A common question I get from people is, “How do you live and work with your husband?” My answer is simple. He GOES to an office at 83rd and Mission and I work OUT of the house—something we have perfected during the past decade. As a couple, we try very hard to not always talk about work at home. However, there are plenty of mornings when he is brushing his teeth and I solicit his opinion on a marketing opportunity.

The balance between being a mom, wife, businesswoman and a lay leader can only work if you find time for yourself and some sliver of balance. I work hard on that important piece of the puzzle, taking the time to lunch with friends, read, get stress-relieving massages and exercise at 5:30 a.m.

We love living in this vibrant and diverse suburb called Overland Park. We can get anywhere in 20 minutes. People are friendly and always willing to give direction, advice and friendship. The educational system is top-notch, and we have amazing dining, arts and cultural opportunities. The possibilities are endless for getting involved in the workplace and in the community. I highly recommend both!

My two minutes are up. On to my next task.

Categories: People