Editor’s note: This is the next in a series of articles that are being published during Sam Redfern’s summer internship at the York County Development Corporation.
Redfern’s series spotlights people who were raised in York County and came back as adults to develop their careers and raise their families. “A place can only be as fantastic as its people,” Redfern says, “which is why the personal histories and current successes of these individuals show us the true heart of York County.”
YORK -- When Blake Woodruff told his friends in Lincoln and Omaha that he was moving back to York, they sarcastically asked him if he was going to live in a barn. Of course, he took the small-town stereotype in stride when he showed them pictures of his new apartment, which happens to be in a building that resembles a large red barn.
As a 2013 graduate of York High school, Woodruff is used to taking comments about his hometown’s water tower and defending the small-town life because he has always known that York is a unique place he wanted to return to. Now, as a young professional working on building his own career and lifestyle, he is thankful for the opportunities and community York provides.
A large part of York’s appeal to Woodruff actually came from his own experience with the schools. He loved attending York High School because it gave him the chance to participate in many different activities, even if he wasn’t the best on the team. He fondly remembers his cross country team winning state runner up his freshman year. Although he was the alternate, he still found a way to convince the coaches that his name should be on the trophy too. Unlike the experience of his peers at Class A schools, he felt the personalized approach and commitment of teachers and coaches allowed him to excel in college and bring new skills back to the community.
Woodruff didn’t have to come back to York. Although taking his place as the third generation of Woodruff financial advisors at Ameriprise Financial could have felt like an obligation, he makes it clear that York is the community where he wants to live and work. After gaining experience in Lincoln for several years, he realized that the larger environment just felt more superficial and one-dimensional. In Lincoln, he wasn’t running into his clients at the grocery store or at church. It was more challenging to take a stake in the community and in the lives of people he was trying to help. Even after just several weeks of calling York home again, he knows that is not the situation here.
Instead, York gives this young professional a chance to help build up the community and continue to improve it. Even though he hasn’t been gone for long, Woodruff has noticed new buildings and developments all over town. He is so optimistic to see these positive changes but more importantly, he knows that even as York grows and changes, the feeling of the community is still there. Working with his grandpa and dad every day, being down the street from family and old friends, and only having a four-minute commute, are all benefits he is enjoying back in York. Whether he is giving his dad style advice or personally navigating adulthood and community involvement, it is clear that Blake is excited to be living in a “barn.”