I have a distinct memory from a few years ago of a friend telling me, “Kansas City is unassuming. You will eventually fall in love with this place.” Fast forward a few years, I now live here and am beginning to scratch the surface of understanding people’s fierce loyalty to this city and love for the region.
When people ask me what I like the most about Kansas City so far, it’s an easy response: it’s the people.
Yesterday I stopped at a crosswalk to let a man cross the street after a few cars whizzed past him without slowing down. Along with a smile and a “thank you,” he walked across the street and then turned around to offer me a piece of Halloween candy. Having spent the majority of my life in big cities on the West Coast, I was surprised by this simple friendly interaction. Taking candy from a stranger on the street is never a good idea, so I obviously didn’t eat it, but I drove away with a smile and a sense of optimism prompted by the man’s friendliness.
I feel a similar optimism in joining the team of talented Health Forward associates and learning about the incredible work of our partners.
On my first day, I found myself in Lafayette County for one of our community forums listening to community members discuss innovative ideas for addressing the most pressing health concerns in their area. I was humbled by the collaboration that took place and the ease with which relationships formed.
A few days later, I was on a food insecurity bus tour coordinated by our Healthy Communities program, visiting some of the remarkable projects in Kansas City that are improving access to quality foods and contributing to improved community health. We met with three organizations, and each of them amazed me with their passion for serving the community and their desire to address health in a holistic way.
With all the uncertainty in Washington D.C. and new health policy headlines emerging daily, having the opportunity to work alongside our grantees to amplify their advocacy presence and build advocacy skills feels more pertinent than ever. Influencing public policy is one of the most effective tools we can use to drive our mission of eliminating barriers to quality health for the uninsured and underserved. We just released our 2018-2019 policy agenda, which reflects our understanding that we are more effective when we work in partnership and multi-sector engagement is key to success.
Kansas City has warmly welcomed me, and I am thrilled to have joined an organization that exemplifies the city’s culture of collaboration and strives to elevate the region’s greatest asset – its people.