Woman Who Makes a Difference: Laura Chandlee

Age: 49.

Location: Dubuque.

Title and organization: Household manager, the Chandlee family.

Number of years with organization: I have been back in Dubuque as an adult for 22 years. We were excited to come back to our community to get involved and to raise our family.

Education and career background: Bachelor’s degree in teaching and in Spanish, University of Northern Iowa.

Community outreach and volunteering: I love to help contribute to making Dubuque a wonderful place to live. I have been involved in activities in the area throughout the years. I have been involved with the Visiting Nurse Association Junior Board, Project Rooted, Homacho, the Dubuque Community Event Board, Women’s Giving Circle, Dubuque Symphony Orchestra and committees for our kids’ schools — Our Lady of Guadalupe and Dubuque Senior High School.

I love to help with activities for kids and events. I think they are our future and want to show our children that the time you spend helping others is invaluable.

We have taken family service trips that have left tremendous impacts on my heart and soul. We also have partnered with a group called Homes of Hope, where we have gone to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic to build homes for people in the community. Watching my family interact and grow during each build is immeasurable, as well as having the opportunity to use the Spanish that they have learned from Our Lady of Guadalupe School. My daughter and I have also traveled to Guatemala and helped build a school with an organization called Hug it Forward that focuses on using bottles to construct.

Family: Husband Chad; son Alec; daughters Ana, Leah and Maren.

How did you get involved with your organization and within the community? I grew up in Dubuque as we moved here from Florida when I was 5. I had learned at a young age to give back and to help in our community. It is something that my parents instilled in me and my siblings. As adults, my husband and I moved back to Dubuque in 2000, after college and living in Chicago, Dallas and Cleveland. My mom always taught me to not ask how I can help but to just reach out and do it. Most people won’t say how you can help but will appreciate any kind act.

What challenges have you faced in your role? I think finding my passions and seeing where my skills can be used to best — learning to reach out to see the many possibilities. I need to get out of my comfort zone sometimes and reach out to find areas in which I can dedicate my time and talents.

What is the most fulfilling part of what you do? I love connecting with people. The connections lead to great conversations and collaborative work. I love learning and growing, while helping our Dubuque community.

What do you believe makes an effective leader? I believe communication and being open to ideas, thoughts and sharing freely. I believe in allowing your passion to drive and motivate. Leading by example is very important to me, too.

Why is community outreach important to you? It’s about connecting with others and learning. There always are new ways to think, and great people guide and inspire here in Dubuque. There are so many fascinating people and organizations here in Dubuque. I am sure so many that I am unaware of, too. I feel like it is imperative for our kids to see us giving of our time and finding ways to help others.

When not busy in your various roles, what activities do you enjoy? I love time with my family. I love to travel with them or just relax at our home or on the river. I love to explore the world and learn about other cultures. There is so much to be learned by traveling. I enjoy tennis and pickleball. I love to watch anything our kids are involved with as well. Family time is the best time.

What was your reaction to receiving your Salute to Women award? I was so surprised at first. I am so grateful and appreciate Bobbi Earles nominating me. It truly makes me feel good knowing that I’ve made a difference in a small way.

If you could offer one piece of advice to other women, what would it be? Be so completely yourself that everyone else feels safe to be themselves, too. Your voice is heard. Your story is needed. Your ideas are vital. Your existence makes a difference. Go and do what you can, when you can, with purpose and love. You can do it, so just believe.