Women & Business Profile: Jeanette Owens Lahm
“When it’s bumpy, keep going—we are all just works in progress.”
Jeanette Owens Lahm
Laurelville Retreat Center
Jeanette Owens Lahm started her career at the YMCA in her hometown of St. Paul, Minn., before moving to Pittsburgh. She took on fundraising and marketing roles for a variety of nonprofits, prioritizing a healthy work-life balance while she and her husband raised their three children. Lahm was working with The Neighborhood Academy’s development team when, in 2016, she made a last-minute decision to chaperone a school trip to Laurelville Retreat Center for a 48-hour ceramics weekend. While stoking a wood-fired kiln in the middle of the night, she spoke to a staff member who told her the retreat center was looking for an executive director. Lahm leapt at the opportunity and has been with the organization ever since. “This is my dream job,” she says. “I get to work with an organization making a difference for thousands of people each year.”
Laurelville Retreat Center sits on 600 acres of land nestled in the Laurel Highlands, offering a peaceful, year-round Christian setting where visitors can refresh and reconnect.
As executive director, Lahm provides the organization’s vision, strategic direction and operations oversight, but she is also ready at a moment’s notice to pitch in alongside her staff to serve food or do dishes. Teamwork is critical to serving more than 20,000 people a year.
Lahm’s leadership has helped Laurelville Retreat Center grow from its roots as a private camp to become a more accessible resource to people in Westmoreland County and beyond.
The organization has invited the community to use its pool facility, which it opened in 2019, and has expanded its outreach by providing swim lessons, day camps and other new programming. Laurelville Retreat Center’s next project is a 400-seat worship and meeting space. With groundbreaking scheduled for October, the project will help celebrate the center’s 80th anniversary.
“Our world is not stagnant,” Lahm says. “If we just do what we have always done, we’ll miss opportunities. When it’s bumpy, keep going—we are all just works in progress.”
She has found the best advice by turning to Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
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