My Story: How I found the ‘greater good’ in northeast Indiana

When I graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Apparel Merchandising and the world at my fingertips, I had no intention of coming back to Fort Wayne.

After growing up here, I thought I knew what the city had to offer, and I always had a desire to explore. I wanted to travel beyond city limits, state lines, and across continental divides.

When you think about the fashion industry, your mind often goes to the front end of it all. You picture your favorite designer, or your favorite brand, or the trends you see on the runway, and it all seems to be happening in nation’s largest metros.

So I wanted a job in a big city that would provide me with the travel opportunities I craved. Bermejo says she chose to work in the apparel industry so she could travel.

During college, I did a summer internship in New York City, and it seemed like a place full of opportunities. In my first job out of college, I applied to World Wide Apparel Resources in New York, a manufacturer to mass market retailers, and I landed my first role as a production assistant.

Within months, I was off to Bangladesh for my first of many on-site visits.

I worked at World Wide Apparel for just more than a year before adding Perry Ellis and then Garan, Inc. to my resume, which included many more trips to places like India.

At that time, Garan’s New York offices were in the Empire State Building, and I truly felt like I was on top of the world going to work every day. The energy of the city was addicting.

But in 2015, after 10 years in the New York City daily grind, and as a mother of two young boys, I was simply exhausted and ready to come home.

Thinking about my future back in Fort Wayne, I mentally prepared myself to make some career sacrifices. I figured I would retire from big city fashion and international travel for a slower pace of life, perhaps in a different industry.

Then I was surprised.

When I was looking for jobs in Fort Wayne, I realized that the city had blossomed with opportunity in the time that I was away, and I found myself back in the apparel industry, after all.

I landed a job with a local children’s apparel company called Matilda Jane Clothing, and today, I work there as the Manager of Production and Sourcing.

I was initially hesitant to go back into an industry that had all but burnt me out, but I quickly learned that Matilda Jane is different in every beautiful way, just like Fort Wayne.

It’s a place that cares, and it shows that in everything it does. It has a unique energy and culture that touches each product from concept to completion into hands of its dedicated customers and community.

I’ve been able to keep traveling here, too. My current position has taken me to new places like Hong Kong and Shanghai.  

Bermejo enjoys traveling to cities around the world for her job.

The pure heart of it all has re-invigorated my desire for growth—both professionally and personally.

When I lived in New York, I felt like I was a part of something greater than myself when I walked the busy streets, and in Fort Wayne, I get the same feeling in a different way.

It’s small enough that you can get involved and be part of something bigger than yourself by attending events or volunteering for nonprofits, which is what I truly love about this place. By being involved, you can have a real impact.

I was so excited about this concept that I decided to start a blog called the Greater Good to act as a community resource and advocate for our city’s non-profits and the ways other locals (or transplants) can get plugged in.

The novelist George Moore once said: “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” I feel like that’s my story.

I have traveled—and continue to travel the world—and I’ve found what I was looking for right here.

There’s more to cities like Fort Wayne than you might imagine.

The Greater Good

The Greater Good is an online community site for nonprofits to promote their initiatives, encourage collaboration, and optimize resources for serving the Fort Wayne community. This one-stop shop serves as a central hub for discovering the Good that already exists, so we can engage in something Greater, together.


Read more articles by Jennifer Norris-Hale.

Jennifer Norris-Hale is a boomerang resident of Fort Wayne. She graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Apparel Merchandising and was in the apparel industry for over 10 years, spending most of that time building a career in Manhattan. Since returning to Fort Wayne in 2015 she has continued developing her true passion in philanthropy as the founder of The Greater Good Fort Wayne. She is a board member for Middle Waves and the Youth Services Bureau. Most importantly, she is a mother of three boys and truly enjoys getting them out and about to enjoy all that Fort Wayne has to offer.

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