Once in awhile you meet someone who was absolutely born to do what they’re doing.
Linda Van Powell of Corvallis is such a person. Powell owns Civic Outreach, and as such is one of the first faces many new professionals see when they move to the area.
“I’m the connector of Corvallis,” Powell said. She describes her work as meeting business leaders and their families who are new to the community, providing them with the information they need, and introducing them to local businesses and professionals, as well as to Oregon.
Long-established area businesses pay a monthly sponsorship fee for Powell's services. She works with local employers to learn of professional people moving to the area, and otherwise keeps her ear to the ground for this information.
She contacts the new professional and they meet at the person's office or get together for coffee. Each new contact is given a directory of long-term local businesses. The linen pages tell the stories of these businesses. Powell's welcome package also includes a map of Corvallis and a selection of restaurant menus, which she said are very popular with those new to town.
“I have a huge desire to connect people with what they’re needing,” she said. “I really do love connecting people.”
Powell describes herself as “outgoing, loving, embracing and social,” so working with people comes easily to her. “Friendship is very important to me,” she said, mentioning that she still has friends from childhood and loves to make new friends of her clients.
In 1993, someone suggested Powell would be a good fit as director of Civic Outreach. She took the job. Powell’s father, Leonard “Van” Van Regenmorter, encouraged her to purchase Civic Outreach, which she did in 2005. Her father served as secretary of the business. He died in 2018.
Powell is originally from Minnesota. She and her family moved to Beaverton when she was in the sixth grade, and her father took a computer job. Powell attended a private fashion school in Portland for a year after high school. She graduated from Oregon State University with a bachelor of science degree in speech communication, minoring in fashion.
Powell went into TV and radio broadcasting as a way of using her education. Coworkers in her broadcasting career encouraged her to shorten her name to “Linda Van.” She hadn’t had a middle name, so was pleased to embrace “Van” as her middle name, honoring her father.
At OSU, she met Lee Powell, who was studying horticulture. His family owns Garland Nursery, a fourth-generation family business in Corvallis. Lee and Linda got married while still in college. They moved to Baton Rouge so Lee could study landscape architecture at Louisiana State University. He is now a licensed landscape architect.
While in Baton Rouge, Linda Van Powell worked in broadcast television, at a men’s fashion store and as an administrative assistant at a psychiatric hospital. The Powells moved to San Francisco when Lee got a job there. While in the Bay Area, Linda Van Powell worked for San Francisco Magazine and for CBS.
After a time, the Powells moved back to Corvallis so Lee could work at Garland Nursery; in fact, they live in a house at the nursery. Linda Van Powell fulfilled her broadcast communications need by working at area radio stations KFLY and KEJO.
And then she lost her voice. She was supposed to have surgery on vocal polyps, but about that time, actress and singer Julie Andrews had polyp surgery that failed. It was then Powell decided to pivot, taking over Civic Outreach.
Powell pivoted again at the onset of the pandemic. “COVID didn’t completely stop what I was doing,” she said. “In fact, it became more important because people were getting jobs and moving here, and they had no contact with anyone because they were working from home. They were not even connected to their neighbors.”
Powell took to welcoming new clients via Zoom, email and phone. She also dropped off welcome items curbside. “It made me feel honored that I could still welcome people and still support businesses trying so hard to hang on.”