We recently celebrated Karen Guile’s 15th anniversary with Health Forward! Karen was the fifth employee to join the team of the fledgling foundation, and she has been part of so many changes through the years. In her words, “We’ve come a loooooooooong way!”
From her perspective, one of the biggest changes is related to technology—specifically how we receive grants. We’ve moved from old-school paper to the digital age. In the early days, Health Forward required four hard copies to be mailed or hand-delivered to our office. This is a far cry from our current online system, where applicants log in to a secure portal to enter proposal information and share attachments with us.
Karen has led the implementation and management of our online grants management systems, but she admits she does miss waiting by the door and cheering for applicants when they handed over their packet of proposals. She knows how much effort it takes to gather all the information and formulate a proposal.
Some of her fondest memories of her time at Health Forward are from staff retreats, since they are an opportunity to step away from our daily work and take time to bond, imagine, and celebrate together.
Another highlight was Health Forward’s 10-year anniversary report, A Decade of Difference. It marked an important milestone for the Health Forward, and we commemorated the occasion with a luncheon and keynote address from Kathleen Sebelius. We also hosted a 10-year celebration picnic with our grantees and community partners.
Karen is also proud of the fact that Health Forward pursued litigation against HCA to ensure that contractually obligated funds stayed in the region to reduce barriers to health in support of those most in need. She is from Wyandotte County, and she feels it is not in the nature of a ‘Dotte to back down.
I asked my colleagues here at Health Forward to share their thoughts about Karen and her contributions to Health Forward. First, I noticed that everyone smiled as they thought of her and shared observations and memories. Here are just a few comments:
- “If I have a question, I always go to Karen first. She usually has the answer.”
- “Karen genuinely cares. She accepts people as they are, without judgment, and engenders trust naturally.”
- “You can count on Karen to work hard and then lead the charge for spirited celebrations.”
- “If you hear laughter down the hall, she probably has something to do with it.”
- “Karen is “the woo and only.” She is genuinely interested in the people she meets and authentically connects with our applicants and the community.”
- “You can hear her smile through the phone.”
- “Her ‘hats’ include teacher, project manager, motivational speaker, IT support, emotional support, customer service, masseuse, system administrator, and party planner.”
- “Karen is probably one of the most passionate people I’ve worked with. Not only passionate about the critical role she serves in the organization but also how we serve the community. I rely on her amazing “problem solving with compassion” attitude!”
- “She knows so much about so many things, but she is so humble about it. She has great taste in music, too.”
- “Karen has one of the biggest hearts at Health Forward. She works hard to make sure we are accessible and transparent to our partners. Although she gives 110 percent, she also likes to have fun and lightens up the office.”
I kept hearing the same themes as I spoke with my colleagues — that we are grateful for Karen’s deep institution knowledge, unwavering dedication, boundless warmth, and joyful spirit. We’d be lost without her, and we’d also have a lot less fun.
I have no doubt that Karen has made a similar impression on our grantees and partners. So while Karen is no longer waiting at our front door to applaud our applicants as they turn in proposals, we trust they know that she is still cheering them on every step of the way and working hard behind the scenes. Please join us in wishing her a happy 15th anniversary. Here’s to many more, Karen!