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People who make a difference: Kate Hess

Volunteer, community member, philanthropy officer – Achieve Brown County, Literacy Green Bay, Junior Achievement and the Green Bay West Rotary Club

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November 3, 2022

GREEN BAY – Born and raised in Allouez, Kate Hess – Senior Philanthropy Officer Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) – said giving back to the community that helped shape who she is today isn’t just something she does, but something she lives.

“Community involvement has always been important to me because I grew up here,” she said. “Seeing the community thrive in whatever way that is, is a focus of mine, and it’s truly at the heart of what I do.”

Over the past couple of decades, Hess said she has had a handful of different positions in a variety of different areas – from nonprofits and for-profits to government and education, and even started her own business – but that regardless of the role she had, community involvement was always a focus of hers.

In her current position with HSHS, Hess said she is responsible for the philanthropy projects for St. Vincent/St. Mary’s Foundation (Green Bay) and the St. Clair Foundation (Oconto Falls).

“I came here because the organization was looking for a community-facing position,” she said. “Someone who could engage the community and help HSHS by looking at how we can broaden our reach to the community as far as understanding that health happens in the community. It’s not just within the four walls of each hospital.”

Hess said everything is connected.

“When we think about healthcare, we think about people being healthy in the community,” she said. “So much more goes into it than just being at the hospital or having a doctor’s visit or things like that.”

Hess said her continued involvement with the community could be one of the reasons she was selected for the position.

“I think they looked at me as someone who could help bridge the gap between what the community is looking for and what the hospitals can offer,” she said.

However, Hess said even though her position is an external, community-facing position, “you don’t have to have a position like this in order to be of influence.”

“Just because I might be listed now as a person who makes a difference – we all can make a difference in the community,” she said. “I think it’s important for us to understand that you don’t need to be recognized for it – because it all matters.”

Taking time to give back
Over the years, Hess said she has volunteered her time with a variety of community organizations – including Achieve Brown County, the Greater Green Bay Chamber’s Partners in Education, Literacy Green Bay, Junior Achievement and the Green Bay West Rotary Club.

Admittedly, Hess said she joined the local rotary club for networking opportunities.

“Surprisingly, after I had joined, I realized ‘Oh, this is absolutely incredible,’” she said. “I will be a Rotarian for life.”
Hess said the model of rotary is service above self.

“We do projects locally and internationally,” she said.

One of those projects was helping secure a grant for a women’s empowerment facility in Maheshwar, India.

“We basically helped these women create a facility where they could create saris and dresses, and become empowered by having their own income,” she said. “It also had a childcare facility built in. Facilities like that don’t exist, especially in southern India.”

Hess said the grant for the project was the largest approved in their rotary district’s history.

“We were able to get the funds for all the machinery, the dyes they needed, the materials they needed and get everything shipped to them,” she said.

Hess said one day she hopes to visit the facility – a trip that has been planned and canceled multiple times thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of these days we’re going to go visit the facility and actually see it,” she said. “We haven’t yet, but I can’t wait to go see it.”
Hess said the rotary club does several service projects and fundraisers.

“We have speakers that come in every week as well,” she said. “So we’re an educated group of people. And that’s by nature. I mean, anybody that joins will become educated because we want to know what’s going on in our community so we can be a better service.”

Hess said her involvement with Literacy Green Bay, Achieve Brown County, Junior Achievement and the chamber’s Partners in Education board roots back to her desire to help others succeed.

“I am a huge proponent in finding the root causes of problems, and once you start to address those,” she said.

As a board member for Achieve Brown County, Hess said she was proud to be a part of change.

“Achieve Brown County is still a relatively new nonprofit… and I wanted to be part of instrumental change within the community,” she said.

Hess said the Partners in Education board is unique to itself.

“You won’t see a board like this anywhere,” she said. “I liked being part of this because it brings people with opposing beliefs together to figure out what our differences are. And not only that but what are our similarities? We’re both trying to do the same thing, and we’re coming at it from two different angles. So how do we work together to make education accessible and equitable for everyone?”

Hess said her work with Junior Achievement afforded her the opportunity to help guide the next generation.

She said it also gave her a continued appreciation for teachers.

“I have always respected teachers immensely, but when you’re actually in the classroom, teaching students, the perspective you have on how difficult teaching is completely changes,” she said.

Give it a go
Hess said she has always been and will always be a proponent of giving back.

She said she encourages others to make it a priority as well.

“Volunteering helps everyone, including yourself,” she said. “You’re providing either a service to someone else or a feeling to someone else based on what it is you’re doing, out of the goodness of your heart without expecting anything in return. But you do get something – you get that feeling of being able to assist someone else.”

Hess said when a giving culture is cultivated for no other reason than just to give, it compounds, grows and builds.

“So, what happens is as you’re continually volunteering in the community or doing good deeds in the community, it makes the entire community better because it has an exponential effect,” she said.

// Hess

Hess said it doesn’t have to be a big extravagant gesture – noting even the little things go a long way.

“I was at the grocery store the other day, and I noticed an elderly gentleman went to walk into the grocery store, and there was a cart that someone had just left, and he took the cart and walked in with it and used that cart to grocery shop,” she said. “Of course, he didn’t have to do that. It wasn’t in one of the corrals, and it wasn’t his job, but he did. And it’s little things like that where I feel the community can see their small deeds can have a profound collective impact.”

Hess said adding up all the small, good deeds – “it makes us more compassionate.”

“It makes us more patient,” she said. “It makes us more loving. It makes us more open. It makes us more friendly. And all of those things help to build a stronger community because then we feel more like we belong. We have value. We have a purpose, and we’re doing good things. And when our community is better when we feel better. We all do better.”

Hess said that then bleeds “into your home life, your personal life, your work life, your social life, with your kids, with your friends and with your church.”

“It’s just this collective community of giving that again, makes everybody better,” she said.

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