News Items - Marion Chamber of Commerce
Finalists for the Young Professional Leader Award have been announced
Three area young professionals have been selected as finalists for the Marion Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional Leader Award. The finalists are (in alphabetic order):
• Ashlee Church with Volkswagen of Marion
• Heather Goines-Evans with Priority Staffing Group Ltd.
• Erin Kopec with HireLevel powered by Extra Help

Three area young professionals have been selected as finalists for the Marion Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional Leader Award. The finalists are (in alphabetic order): Members of the Marion Chamber of Commerce were asked to submit nominations in October for the Young Professional Leader Award. Nominations were sought for individuals who demonstrate excellence and initiative in their business or profession and are under the age of 40. The Young Professional Leader Award finalists and winner were selected by the members of the Marion Chamber of Commerce Awards Committee, including the Mayor of the City of Marion Robert Butler, Gail Barger with Priority Staffing Group Ltd., Dalus Ben Avi with the Marion Chamber of Commerce, Kristin Beutel with the Marion Chamber of Commerce, Ashlee Church with Volkswagen of Marion, Misty Cobb with Banterra Bank, Dana Dooley with HireLevel powered by Extra Help, Kenya Garner with State Farm Insurance, Cindy Gibbons with U.S. Bank, Ashley Gott with Bank of Herrin, Janet Jensen with Auto Credit of Southern Illinois, Doug Kimmel with Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois, Brian McHugh with BNI STAR Chapter, Bill Nielsen with Flanders Electric, Sara Perdue with Harbory Medical Cannabis Dispensary, Christy Pulliam with StaffQuick, Mindy Reid with Banterra Bank, Rick Richert with Flanders Electric and Kimberly Walker with Kemper CPA Group LLP.
The winner of the Young Professional Leader Award will be announced during the 97th annual Marion Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet & Auction on Friday, January 19 at The Pavilion. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Tickets to attend are $60/person or $400/table (seats 8) and are available by calling the Marion Chamber of Commerce at 618.997.6311, visiting or emailing

The Young Professional Leader Award is sponsored by Doggie Stylez Inc. 
Information about the finalists is below.
Ashlee Church:
Ashlee grew up and was educated in Southern Illinois. She attended Carterville High School, John A. Logan College, and eventually Southern Illinois University. From a young age, she worked at Ike Auto Park in Carbondale and later moved to Ike Honda in Marion in 2006 when their new facility opened. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Management in May 2009. She went on to complete her M.B.A. at SIUC and was awarded a Graduate Assistantship working in the Dean’s office as a member of the Foundation’s Fundraising and Development Team. After completing her Master’s degree in Business Administration in 2010, she left the automotive industry and began working for Extra Help (now HireLevel) at their corporate office in Marion.
In 2012, Ashlee returned to work at Ike Honda. At that time, she also began teaching marketing, management, and speech classes at McKendree University. Over the next few years, Ashlee worked to convince Volkswagen executives that Marion was a viable market for a Volkswagen dealership. “It took quite a bit of convincing,” Ashlee said.
In 2013, the Eigenrauch “Ike” family was notified that Marion has been selected as an open point. They were invited to present to corporate executives in a competitive process for the franchise. Ashlee built a very strong case and, together with her family, was able to convince Volkswagen that the Ike family would be the best fit to represent the brand in Southern Illinois. Planning began immediately, and Volkswagen of Marion opened in a temporary location at the Williamson County Airport (now Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois) in February 2014. Construction on their white frame facility began soon after and was completed in March of 2015.
Since opening, Volkswagen of Marion has been recognized for their exceptional customer service and finished sixth in the country for customer satisfaction their first year in business. Since opening, Ashlee has continued a culture of customer satisfaction as demonstrated by her after sale team’s #1 ranking of all St. Louis – Central & Southern Illinois – Southern Illinois Volkswagen dealerships in 7 of the last 8 quarters.
In 2016, Ashlee enrolled in the General Dealership Management Program at the National Automobile Dealer Association (NADA) Academy in McLean, Virginia. Ashlee traveled to Virginia multiple times over the 10 month program consisting of intensive week-long classroom courses and coursework completed in the dealership. One of only two females in a class of forty students, she was voted to represent NADA Class #315 as their Class President and delivered the commencement speech at the graduation ceremony in April of 2017.
Ashlee has worked in fundraising efforts for multiple charitable organizations and causes throughout the region, helping to raise well over $150,000 for local causes. She also serves on the Executive Board of the Marion Chamber of Commerce. In 2016, she was recognized by the SIU College of Business with the Emerging Saluki Leader Award.
Ashlee enjoys the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather Ike Eigenrauch and her mother Lori Sisulak. In her spare time, Ashlee enjoys traveling and spending time with her family which consists of her husband Nate, four dogs, and a cat.
“There are so many deserving young people within the Marion Chamber that even being nominated is a huge honor,” Ashlee said. “I am proud of the fact that I have been educated and now work in Southern Illinois. Hopefully this will be inspiration to other young Southern Illinoisans who want to stay in the area.”
Heather Goines-Evans:
Heather Goines-Evans is a partner and chief operating officer for Priority Group whose focus is pairing individuals and employers in their quest for strategic partnerships for long-term success. Heather started her career in human resources 15 years ago. Continuing her passion for leadership and development, she completed an Operation Bootstrap Program at SIU and achieved an Entrepreneurial Achievement Certificate in 2009.
In 2010, alongside her two partners founded and opened Priority Group which today, 7 years later, now has three locations, two in Illinois and another in Tennessee. Heather was appointed to the Illinois Department of Labor Advisory board in 2013. Heather is a member of the Middle Tennessee Society for Human Resource Management Chapter, the sixth largest SHRM chapter in the US, as well as multiple Chambers of Commerce organizations in Southern Illinois and Tennessee. Heather is an avid sports fan, coaching youth sports programs with Marion Youth Baseball and Softball and now competitive travel softball.
“Professional accomplishments are what you set for your self to achieve through your vision,” Heather said. “I knew early in life that I had a vision to own a company some day. I achieved that vision at the age of 28 and every day is an accomplishment for me that I get to continue this vision and lead others to develop their own potential.”
Heather is a 2000 graduate of Vienna High School. She went on to Southeastern Illinois College and continues her education with various leadership development and human resources courses.
Heather’s volunteer work includes Hospice of Southern Illinois, John A. Logan College Scholarship Foundation, the Marion Chamber of Commerce’s Golf Scramble, just to name a few.
Heather’s nomination means a lot to Priority Group’s employees, she said.
“They see how much time and effort goes into running a business and not only maintaining but growing it and setting a vision that they can be proud to be a part of,” Heather said.
Erin Kopec:
Erin Kopec is a marketing leader at HireLevel, a workforce management company, specializing in employment services, payroll and overall human capital management. Erin leads the company as the marketing director, heading up all marketing activities, including digital, public relations, communications, recruitment marketing and brand development across eight locations in the Midwest and South.
Erin studied marketing at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and proceeded to work in the world of banking, helping the customer experience at a local bank in Marion. After graduating from SIU in 2008, Erin had the opportunity to work alongside one of her favorite professors and mentors at John A. Logan College as a marketing lecturer for one semester. Passionate about the world of digital marketing, what makes a consumer tick and the ever-evolving world of branding, the move to HireLevel in 2011 was a natural fit.
Aside from her passion growing in the B2B marketing world, Erin is also an advocate for giving back and volunteering. Erin currently serves as the club secretary for the Williamson County Heartland Rotary, and has served two terms as president since joining the club in 2012. Erin also serves on the Public Relations Committee for the American Staffing Association where she can provide strategic counsel regarding the annual ASA PR strategic plan and association initiatives, and inform ASA staff of industry issues and trends. Erin also leads the employee engagement committee internally with over 80 staff members at HireLevel.
In her free time, Erin loves to frequent local Southern Illinois eateries, wineries, participate in a 5k or two, boating at the Lake of Egypt and enjoying the Southern Illinois outdoors.
Grateful for the amazing opportunities that she has had growing up and living in Southern Illinois, Erin’s mission is to improve the lives of individuals she can touch through her professional and personal accomplishments.
In 2013, Erin was responsible for leading HireLevel to the championship round in the Social Media Madness Competition held by the St. Louis Business Journal. In 2016, Erin helped HireLevel earn the American Staffing Association Genius Awards in the $25-$100 million category. HireLevel was presented as winners of New Company Identification and new Website design. And, in 2017, Erin was chosen to lead a new company initiative to help develop future leaders of the company. HireLevel launched a new Leadership Development Program in 2017 that is currently being coordinated and lead by Erin. Erin understands what it takes to grow her knowledge professionally and has shown “grit” in leading key company initiatives.
Erin works closely to support the charity initiative that started in 2016, called the #HireLevelDifference. She does community outreach for the charity committee, assists in coordinating office volunteer opportunities and involves the internal staff with local organizations in the communities that we work, live, and play.
Erin also works closely with SIUC as an alum of the College of Business. She works with the college on HireLevel’s internship program, speaks to business classes, participates in mock interviews with the students, and provides educational information on trending topics in marketing and staffing. Erin thinks it is important to have ties with local educational institutions to help students along their career paths and improve the incoming workforce for generations to come.
In her current role, she plays a vital part of what needs to happen behind the scenes to ensure HireLevel continues to support the Marion Chamber of Commerce. Erin is the one who coordinates, approves, and gathers items for the Chamber’s community events. HireLevel participated in several Chamber activities in 2017, sponsoring a hole at the annual golf tournament and serving margaritas at the first annual Block Par-tee. HireLevel allows their internal team members to participate in committees and attend the Chamber monthly lunches.
“I was absolutely thrilled to have received the call from Dalus (Ben Avi, executive director of the Marion Chamber of Commerce) regarding my nomination to be a finalist for the Young Professional Leadership Award,” Erin said. “I was a little caught off guard, as the Marketing Director in my company, I am typically the one that submits nominations for my company and colleagues so it is exciting to be on the receiving end. I work hard to support local job seekers, employers, civic organizations so earning this award would mean all of my hard work has paid off!”
The first Young Professional Leader Award was given in 2010 to Meredith Ashe. Last year’s winner was Toni Perkins and Erica Pancoast. Past winners of the Young Professional Leader Award can be viewed at

Published: 11/30/17