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Governor Spotlight: Linda Martens

By Isabel Perlin

Linda Martens has always been interested in international affairs, so it seems inevitable that she would find a way to devote her skills, network, and passion to a mission like Opportunity International. Her first introduction was by fellow donor Jan Long Harris at a dinner in 1992 where she immediately fell in love with Opportunity’s mission and the idea of a “hand up, not a handout.”

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Asian studies from The College of Wooster and her master’s degree from Smith College School for Social Work, Linda went on to work at Northwestern and Lutheran General-Parkside Hospitals, where she focused on Employee Assistance Programs and quality improvement work. She transitioned to medical writing for Northwestern’s website and then became a content strategist at Siren Interactive, focusing on rare diseases. She has been retired for 10 years.

Linda has enjoyed international travel since she was a teenager, when she went to Japan for a high school semester exchange program and later to India to study abroad in college. However, neither of these experiences remotely compared to the experience of an Opportunity Insight Trip. Linda notes that, “There is a big difference between traveling as a student, a tourist, or an Opportunity supporter.”

Linda has gone on two Insights Trips, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. She spoke of how important these trips were to meet Opportunity’s clients, as well as members of the local staff and other donors. Every time she goes on an Insight Trip, she is inspired by Opportunity’s respect for clients and commitment to providing them with the resources and skills they need to meet their goals. “I am so inspired by our clients and by Opportunity’s dedication to walking alongside them,” she says.

An Opportunity client Linda met in her bakery on a trip to Guatemala.
An Opportunity client Linda met in her bakery on a trip to Guatemala.

One of the aspects of Opportunity International that resonates with Linda is the commitment to serving women. She has been especially impressed with the Trust Groups model that not only gives women access to money, but also creates a community and a caring support network. “Women use their loans and training to build their businesses, then use the profits to educate their children, provide for their families, and impact their community,” she says.

Linda has committed herself fully to Opportunity’s mission. She has raised awareness by helping host local events and introducing new people to the organization—just as she was introduced 30 years ago. She has leveraged her network by inviting Opportunity’s Director of Philanthropy Heather Radzinski to speak at her church for their “Minute for a Mission” initiative. And finally, Linda even worked with the headquarters staff in Chicago on research and marketing initiatives.

“Everyone is dedicated, passionate, and thoughtful,” Linda describes the Opportunity staff. We would say the same of Linda. Thank you for being a vocal and loyal advocate for Opportunity!

A Trust Group meeting Linda attended in Guatemala—noting the fingerprint sign in sheet.
A Trust Group meeting Linda attended in Guatemala—noting the fingerprint sign in sheet.

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