One thing you commonly hear in speaking with Northwest Indiana Residents is how much they enjoy the attractions in Chicago. Jane Grennes has a different idea. She likes to take people to see the Tulip Festival in her beloved hometown of Holland, Michigan, and - through her job with Valparaiso Parks and Recreation - she arranges frequent trips to do just that.
For her, the idea came naturally.
“I used to work for the Holland Tulip festival before I got married and moved down here,” says Grennes, who has worked as customer service for the Parks Department for the past five years.
“I’m the first face people see when they come in,” she likes to say.
Grennes formerly worked at the Tulip Festival, and says that they would bring motor coaches in so people could see the tulips. Once here in Valparaiso, she was inspired to continue that idea.
“When I moved here to Valparaiso, I thought how neat it would be for us to have a motor coach take people from Valpo up to see the Tulip Festival.”
So, she brought up the idea to her director, John Seibert.
“He really liked the idea and thought that it would fit in well with the mission statement of the Valpo Parks Department. We did our first trip in May of 2014. We brought a motor coach group of 38 people who had booked for that first trip.”
Jane says that the Tulip Festival has always been her passion, so she knew how to put the ideal trip together.
“On the way home, the people asked when the next one would be, so we decided to make it a program. We did four that first year, and it’s just grown from there.”
Grennes says that the event continues to grow, with a total of nine trips this year.
Jane currently lives in Valparaiso, where she moved after marrying her husband, Mike Grennes, a Valparaiso police officer. She has also worked in Chicago and for Porter County Schools for 15 years before finding a home with Valparaiso Parks and Recreation, which she says keeps her busy, and she loves it.
“It’s constant activity; never a dull moment at Valpo Parks! The staff there are like family, and the people are great, especially with our day trips. We have a unique group of people who book the trips and come back again and again. Sometimes, we have half a bus full of people who have taken the trip with us before, so I’ve really been able to build relationships with them, which I love.”
Jane, a Hope College alum who holds a bachelor’s degree in in business administration, says that most of her day is spent on the phone.
“I try to get my first cup of coffee in before the phone rings,” she says with a laugh. “But that’s just how customer service is.”
Jane says that she has had to learn to multitask. “It’s just constant! I’ll be doing one thing, and the phone will ring. I’ll have to drop what I’m doing to help someone, then go back to what I was doing before. It’s challenging, but I love it.”
When she’s not in the office, Jane says that she loves being outdoors and likes to go running
“I do it for the exercise and fresh air, but I’ll enter a 5k here and there.” She is also a big fan of the Valparaiso YMCA and likes their spin classes.
Jane and her husband Mike share their Morgan Township home with their two sons. Kyle, 18, a freshman at Hope College and Drew, 15, and a freshman at Hebron High School. Her sons are both active in sports.
“My husband is varsity basketball coach, so we’re a sports-oriented family,” says Jane, who added that she’s very close to her family back in Michigan and makes frequent trips on weekends to visit.
They also have a dog named Joey.
“He’s a one-year old Lab/Beagle mix that we adopted from Lakeshore PAWS,” says Grennes. “He likes to play snatch-and-grab. We can’t leave anything laying out or he just comes by, snatches it and takes off running. He’s very playful.”
Jane says she feels very at home in Valparaiso.
“It’s very much like Holland, MI. They’re both college towns, and with all the activities that we have going on downtown, it’s just an amazing place to live.”
She particularly enjoys Central Park Plaza, the Urschel Pavilion and the skating rink.
“Valparaiso is my home. It’s where we work, where we live. We feel very safe and at home here. With the activity downtown here, especially on Washington St, where it feels like its own little community that just comes alive at night, it’s just very cool,” says Grennes.
“Valpo is very progressive. They are very responsive to their residents. The city gives people what they want, and that’s a wonderful thing.”