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People who make a difference – Kathryn Kroll

Mentor, volunteer, board director, coach – Green Bay Rotary Club, Salvation Army, Green Bay Community Church, Ashwaubenon High School

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January 26, 2023

2nG6vsfoYDcGREEN BAY – Kathryn Kroll, leadership development and social media specialist with Together Green Bay, said, for her, giving back to the community she grew up in isn’t just something she does, it is a part of who she is – literally.

A nonprofit management graduate from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, the Titletown native has spent her entire career in roles that support the community around her.

“When I was a freshman in college, my mom started working for the Salvation Army – prior to that she had been working with Brown County Human Services,” she said. “Getting to learn more about the Salvation Army and about other nonprofits they work with in the community solidified that nonprofit management was the route I wanted to go.”

Kroll said the impact she saw her community make through the work her mother did at the Salvation Army fueled her desire to spend her life giving back.

After graduation, Kroll returned to Northeast Wisconsin and took a position with the Salvation Army as a community relations and marketing coordinator.

“That was a great way to get to learn more about the needs of our community and all the different nonprofits that come together to fill some of those needs,” she said.

From there, her career of service led her to Downtown Green Bay, Inc. again in the marketing realm.

“Another nonprofit, a bit different – a little different community focus there, but that was so much fun,” she said. “Whether it was helping plan the holiday parade or the farmers markets or Fridays on the Fox – all sorts of fun events, again, to make our community a better place.”

Through the Green Bay Rotary Club, Kathryn Kroll (in yellow) said she had the opportunity to administer oral polio vaccines to remote villages of India for World Immunization Day. Submitted Photo

Kroll said her current position with Together Green Bay is a combination of both of those focuses.

“I’m bringing together some of the businesses and nonprofits to collaborate in our community and build up leaders – all to continue to transform and impact the Green Bay community,” she said.

Kroll said she also spends much of her time outside of work volunteering – with many of her favorite moments involving the Salvation Army.

“My mom was at the Salvation Army for 13 years (she retired just weeks ago),” she said. “During all of those years, our family was involved in volunteering.”

Kroll said two of those opportunities have become very important to her over the years – the annual gift distribution efforts and the Coats for Kids collections.

“For our family, it’s really not Christmas, it’s not the holidays without participating in the gift distribution,” she said. “I love that we can do that as a family – usually mom, dad, sister – we’re all there.”

Kroll said having the opportunity to help support the littlest members of her community means a great deal.

“The kids actually get to come and pick out a winter jacket, which as we all know in Green Bay is an essential item,” she said. “Being able to shop with the families and see the smiles and the kids’ faces light up when they said, ‘oh my gosh, I love this jacket,’ or ‘it’s my favorite color.’ Knowing that maybe while they are waiting at the bus stop or walking to and from school or just being a kid and going to play outside – they’ve got what they need to do that and have fun and be like all the other kids in their class.”

Global impact
A large part of Kroll’s volunteering also happens through the Green Bay Rotary Club.

“I got involved with the Rotary Club a couple of years out of college,” she said. “When I was working at the Salvation Army, I had the opportunity to join. At first, I thought it would just be some networking and an opportunity to get the Salvation Army out in front of this community of people, maybe some donor relations type things.”

Over the years, Kroll said she has realized the Rotary Club is much more than that, giving her an opportunity to impact her community and beyond.

“Rotary has a global footprint, and it also has a community impact locally in Green Bay,” she said. “So, it’s fun to play on both of those levels.”

As a member of the club’s board of directors, Kroll said she is humbled by the impact it is able to make worldwide.

“I’ll always remember being in a board meeting – I’m on our board of directors – and we’re sitting at the Downtown Green Bay library,” she said. “We committed grant funding to a hospital in Guatemala that when you enter the emergency room, you have to bring water with you because they didn’t have reliable 24/7 access to clean water. The concept of having to bring water with you to a hospital seems so foreign to me. And I thought it was the coolest thing we could sit in a boardroom in downtown Green Bay and have an impact across the globe.”

Through the Rotary Club, Kroll said she has also had the opportunity to travel to India for World Immunization Day and administer oral polio vaccines to remote villages.

“It’s (opportunities like these) we’re able to fund that keep me coming back to rotary,” she said. “We meet every week, and it’s encouraging to be in an environment with other people that want to impact our community and make our world a better place.”

Participating in athletics herself when she attended Preble High School in Green Bay, Kroll said she recognizes the importance sports play in the life of young people – both on and off the court.

“I enjoy the life lessons you can learn from sports,” she said.

In an effort to help instill that in the next generation of athletes, Kroll served as the assistant girls’ varsity volleyball coach at Ashwaubenon High School for six years.

“For me, especially in that assistant coach position, I was a little more worried about the off-court skills perhaps, than those on-court skills,” she said. “So, the team building, and hopefully being a strong female leader to the girls that I’m coaching.”

Kroll said she also tried to remind her athletes to have fun.

“Of course, winning is great, but let’s be sure we’re having fun, too,” she said. “That’s usually the biggest reason people quit high school sports, so I always wanted to be that coach that said, ‘Yep, we’re gonna work hard, but we’re gonna have fun as well.’”

As an assistant coach with the varsity team, which consisted of mostly juniors and seniors, Kroll said it was inspiring to learn more about their plans for the future.

Kathryn Kroll, right, said volunteering with her mom and sister (also pictured) with the Salvation Army Christmas gift distribution program has become an important part of her life. Submitted Photo

“To hear about their future goals and their ambitions and what they wanted to do after school was great,” she said.

Kroll said she also tried to instill the importance of giving back to her athletes as well.

“When I was working at Downtown Green Bay, we had the team out volunteering,” she said. “Showing them the value of getting involved, volunteering and giving back to the community was fun to experience that with the girls.”

Local community impact
Kroll is also a part of Leadership Green Bay’s current cohort.

“That has been such a cool experience,” she said. “We have, I think, 49 people in our Leadership Green Bay class, and it’s been great because we get together every month and learn about different areas of our Green Bay community.”

In addition to the monthly session days, Kroll said participants were separated into small groups that then work on a project that benefits the community to raise awareness, solve a community issue or help meet the needs of a nonprofit organization. 

“(My small group) is working on creating an additional community garden,” she said. “We had some ideas about the environment and gardening, so we reached out to community gardens and said, ‘Hey, what do you guys need? How can we help you?’ When we were meeting with them, they said their biggest need was they had so many people on the waitlist. They said, ‘We need more community garden sites.’ So, we were excited to tackle that project.”

Part of that work, Kroll said, includes canvassing the neighborhood to see what the needs in regard to community gardens are.
“I’ve never canvassed a neighborhood before,” she said. “It will be fun to try that out and see what that’s like. I wouldn’t say I have a green thumb, but I’m excited to dive into this program and hopefully we can raise some good funding and bring this garden to life.”

Kroll said she is appreciative of the Leadership Green Bay program for providing her with these additional opportunities to give back.

“That’s the great thing about Leadership Green Bay, whether it’s education day or inclusive leadership day, I know we’ve got government day coming up – we’re continuing to learn new things about a community I’ve lived in my whole life,” she said. 

Motivated to continue giving
Kroll said what motivates her and likely many others who give their time to their communities is “the need is still there.”

“I think we’d all love to volunteer ourselves out of a job,” she said. “But, I think as long as there is a need in the community, we have an obligation. Personally, I am grateful for what I have. I am blessed I have the opportunity to give back. And so, if there are people that still need those Christmas presents for their families around the holidays and I can help be a part of that – why wouldn’t I?”

Kroll said when she thinks about coats during the wintertime, a meal during the holidays, gifts for a family at Christmas time or even access to healthy nutrition with a community garden – “to me, those are pretty basic needs.”

“You might sign up for something thinking you’re going to help others and you’re going to help your community, but you’re going to get just as much out of that experience,” she said. “Maybe it’s getting to meet somebody new while you’re serving, or maybe you’re serving alongside your family and friends. But, I believe not only are you impacting your community, but it’s a great impact on you as an individual as well.”

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