Movers & Shakers – Katelyn Steakley

A self-described wild card who loves connecting people and resources, Katelyn Steakley has her hand in multiple efforts, both behind the scenes and in front of a camera.

Current roles for Katelyn include wife, mother, executive director, founder, small business owner, and public television host.

With a passion for community development and non-profit work dating back to her childhood (inspired by a charity-driven grandmother), Steakley has a heart for work that serves others.

After college, she joined her mother in owning a boutique with a primary mission of blessing others. The shop was fittingly named Bless.

Tasked with the role of researching and selecting recipients for Bless’ giveback program, Steakley became aware of and was drawn to the Putnam Education Partnership Foundation. Little did she know, she would later lead the efforts of PEP as their executive director, making an impact on children’s nourishment and enrichment, and in turn, their educational success.

PEP Foundation is a non-profit working to meet the basic, social/emotional, and safety needs of children in the Putnam County School System through various initiatives, programs, and partnerships.

Steakley strives to remove barriers and eliminate anything that hinders children’s abilities to learn and be successful in their educational journeys.

Now, nearly two years into her role with PEP, the non-profit continues to grow and find new ways of serving young learners.

In addition to her dedication to community development and service, a background in marketing has proven a key component in Steakley’s effective efforts at strengthening the program.

Like most government or social service-related efforts, marketing and advertising funds are not readily available. For this reason, it is essential to find free and creative avenues of connection between available resources and those in need while also generating awareness among members of the community who have the means of providing additional resources, bringing further value to the program.

Relationship-building and listening to people are central features of how Steakley creates connections between opportunities and those in need.

“I just want to meet people where they are and help them, to connect them with necessary and available resources,” said Steakley.

PEP allows the type of impact that is most important to Steakley, one that is not only serving immediate needs but creates long-term positive results for children as well.

“We should invest in our children more than all the other things,” said Steakley. “When we invest in children, we are investing in tomorrow.”

It’s this powerful reminder and forward-thinking mindset that gets her through the challenging days that inevitably come with the position.

Katelyn’s hectic life is filled with much more than leading PEP. She also serves as the founder of Cookeville Strong, an online social media group created to share vital information during the recovery efforts immediately following the devastating March 2020 tornadoes. This online community, birthed out of the need to connect survivors with resources and those who wanted to help, evolved into a platform that allowed Steakley to serve her community in ways she never imagined.

The group grew quickly and began serving as a vital tool for recovery efforts and communication, leading Steakley to then serve with the Tornado Relief Fund committee, as well as the community benevolence and long-term need committees. From the Cookeville Strong, a smaller survivors’ offshoot was also created. This space became a therapeutic support group of sorts for those hurting as well as a safe place to discuss their shared trauma.

Outside the serious nature of social services and nonprofits, Steakley finds an escape in a hobby that’s grown into a fully formed passion, photography. When she was just 15 years old, Katelyn began taking photos. Now, as the owner of Kate Steakley Design & Photography, she specializes in headshots and photoshoots, finding joy in helping people feel their best.

When not behind cameras, Steakley finds herself in front of them, serving as host of the WCTE/PBS series Wish You Were Here. This grant-funded project, in partnership with Upper Cumberland Development District, features hidden gems and attractions of the 14-county area in an effort to highlight the unsung tourism assets of the region.

Thriving on relationship building and meeting new people, Wish You Were Here has been rewarding for Steakley as it allows her the opportunity to connect with her community even further. She has extended her reach outside Putnam County as well, showcasing the small business owners of the Upper Cumberland who are investing in their local populations to make a difference.

Steakley sees herself always serving, in some capacity, especially in efforts that have long-term, enduring results. Katelyn Steakley’s goal as a mover and shaker is to invest time and energy into work that will grow and develop the movers and shakers of tomorrow.

– by Molly Brown, photos by Cris Stroud


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