Kim Bender Reflects on Four Years at the Healthcare Foundation

1 min read. As we prepare to welcome Amy Ramirez as our new Executive Director, Kim Bender looks back on her tenure as ED.

Being the executive director of the Healthcare Foundation has been a dream job: it has encouraged the best in me, calling upon all of my life experience — as a film producer and professional problem-solver, development director and fundraiser, mother and community builder, citizen and neighbor. As I prepare to step down from this role, it feels like I’m graduating again, this time with a degree in Health Equity and Community Leadership. 

I started at the Healthcare Foundation in March of 2020, a quiet, momentous time as the world shut down. Looking back now, it’s hard to believe that all the changes we have gone through together during my tenure at the Healthcare Foundation have taken place in only four years. I’m sure you’ll agree, those years have held more than their usual share of history and challenge. What has united them, for me, and for all of us at the Healthcare Foundation, are the themes of partnership and social justice—themes that I take with me and that remain at the heart of the Healthcare Foundation’s mission: to connect people and resources to promote wellness in underserved communities. The initiatives, programs, and accomplishments of the Healthcare Foundation in its partnerships across our region are many over the last four years, indeed too many to recount here. We’ve tried to cover them all in detail in our newsletter and on our website

Among the achievements of the last four years that I would like to mention here is the expanding network of friends and allies we have grown in Sonoma County, committed individuals, organizations, and businesses who all want to work together toward a better, more equitable future. This cooperation has been remarkable. While lockdown made developing new relationships with donors and other community members uniquely challenging, people were generous and forgiving, and embraced relationships that could, for too long, only exist on Zoom.

I remember early on trying a Zoom dinner with some Healthcare Foundation board members, many of whom I had not yet met in person, only to discover that eating in front of a laptop’s wide-angle lens was not such a great idea after all. On the other hand, in a very successful experiment, we brought the community together for a virtual gala in August of 2020. While we may never go back to that format, under those circumstances it proved not only viable but was tremendously fun, and many new friendships were formed (and funds raised) as a result.

On a personal note, Life has evolved over the last four years, as it does, moving at its own pace, offering endless opportunities for growth. Against the backdrop of the global pandemic, the Walbridge and Glass Fires, the racial justice uprising, the insurrection, economic uncertainty, and a stutter-start return to the “new normal,” I experienced four deaths in my family, the birth of my first grandchild, and created many lifelong bonds with members of this community.

I want to express my deep gratitude to you, the Healthcare Foundation’s donors, board members (present and past), grantees and community members, for moving with me through all the changes we navigated and the paths we forged together, building community power with a steadfast vision of eliminating health inequities in northern Sonoma County. I will continue to be an ally to and supporter of local nonprofits in my next phase of life, and will always hold this community close to my heart. Thank you for all the love and support you have provided to me, and to this organization. 

Please join me in celebrating the incredible Healthcare Foundation staff — Mary, Hanna and Joel — who make everything happen — and in welcoming incoming Executive Director Amy Ramirez. I could not be more proud or confident to be passing the baton to Amy, who is not only deeply knowledgeable and experienced in the work we do but has embodied those themes of community partnership and social justice for her entire career. With your support, Amy is poised to lead the Healthcare Foundation onward toward our shared vision of health equity and health justice for all.

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