Ashleigh Bennett

Had someone told me 10 years ago that I would wind up living (by choice) in Northwest PA, I would have laughed in their face. Like the typical teenager in the area, I thought I had to get out; I thought that in order to make something of myself, I had to live in a city.

I grew up in Knox, PA, where I graduated from Keystone and went on to school at Clarks Summit University in Northeast PA. After about three years, my meticulously crafted plans took an unexpected hit and I found myself back in my parents’ basement in the thriving metropolis of Knox.

Throughout the next three years, I worked any job I could get. Retail, restaurant, secretarial, nannying…you name it, and I probably did it. Nothing seemed to really be a good fit for me. I decided to strike out on my own in Oil City, and later accepted a job at PNC bank in Franklin. The job still wasn’t for me, but as I spent 40 hours a week experiencing Franklin, I started to fall in love with the town and the community. I had also been working part time at First United Methodist Church since September of 2015, so I already had a special place in my heart for the people of Franklin. In August of 2016, I decided to leave my little apartment in Oil City for downtown Franklin. This is especially interesting for me, because I remember saying as a teenager that if I had to live in Western PA for some freak reason, I could probably handle Franklin. Funny how life works, isn’t it?

For a complete recap of my ridiculous employment history, I decided to leave the bank at the end of 2016 to pursue things I was truly passionate about, which includes my work at the church and playing/teaching music. At FUMC, I head up the education program and work with the kids. In addition to that, I work part time as a barista at Bossa Nova Café Roastery and am a teacher at the Porch Music Store.

Most of my free time is focused on music outside of the music store, too. I write and perform my own music and I play the guitar, piano, and ukulele. The opportunities to share my music and be a part of the arts community in Venango County have been absolutely amazing.

I can’t begin to describe how thankful I am for the relationships I’ve built and experiences I’ve had in this area. At the risk of sounding like a cliche, I feel like this is where I belong. Our area is so unique. Somehow, we manage to have the small town charm while still maintaining a sense of relevancy. As a young professional in this region, I love the sense of community here as well as the incorporation of culture, including arts, music, and food, and I’m excited to see our area continue to thrive. I feel like something big is happening here and I love that I get to be a part of it.