By Brandon Martin
We reap what we sow, and Kate Keller said she sees a lot of potential in Henry County and Martinsville.
Keller officially took over as president of The Harvest Foundation on July 15, following Allyson Rothrock’s retirement.
It’s a position that Keller said she’s excited about. She added that she plans to continue the level of growth and energy displayed in recent years.
“I’m going to spend the next few months listening, learning and understanding the needs and opportunities in the area as we figure out new and innovative ways to get Martinsville to the next level,” Keller said.
She has a long background of philanthropic work. Keller dedicated 20 years to her previous role at Interact for Health, a private, health-focused foundation in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her work largely revolved around strategic planning, grantmaking and strategic communication, as well as coordinating policy and information teams.
Keller also has an impressive set of accolades and accomplishments. She received a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Cincinnati, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Eastern Michigan University.
Interact for Health named the Keller Fellowship in her honor in 2018, and she received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the National Assembly on School-Based Healthcare in 2012. Keller was also named to the Forty Under Forty list by the Cincinnati Business Courier and she was a member of the 39th class of Leadership Cincinnati.
The Cincinnati native has implemented several initiatives totaling more than $22 million. These initiatives included opening 24 school-based health centers in the Greater Cincinnati area and launching a public education campaign to inform residents of healthcare options through the Affordable Care Act. This contributed to the expansion of Medicaid coverage to 800,000 Ohioans.
Most recently, Keller established Keller Consulting, which provides healthcare and consulting services such as strategy assessment and development, strategic planning, and funding strategies research.
While the bulk of her work has been in urban communities, Keller said she looks forward to the challenges presented in her new predominantly rural home.
“Before arriving, I tried my best to avoid anything that would color my outlook on the area, either good or bad,” Keller said. “I wanted to limit my perceptions as much as possible because I’m here to listen and learn from the community and help out however I can.”
Keller said she found out about the opportunity after a recruiter from Harvest reached out to her during their search for a new president. Since she had always found philanthropic work to be “rewarding and challenging,” Keller said she jumped at the opportunity to make a difference in a new setting.
“Coming from the outside could present a little of a challenge for me as I learn more and more about the people and history of the area, but there is a tremendous staff here at Harvest that will help me along the way,” Keller said. “They’ve been doing phenomenal work up to this point. There is a lot of opportunity and progress being made. It’s clear that there is a vision of moving forward and I’m excited.”
Keller is joined by her husband, Craig, and their son Charlie, and the family’s French bulldog, Boomer. The couple’s daughter, Allie, will stay in Ohio to attend Ohio State University.
Having a supportive family unit has eased the transition, according to Keller.
“I’m fortunate enough to have a very supportive family and they realize how amazing this opportunity is as well,” Keller said. “They are a little nervous about moving to a new community, but they are also excited too.”
Keller said she is looking forward to taking advantage of the rural delights offered in the area, particularly activities on the Smith River and various outdoor trails. Her son; however, is itching to get up to Philpott Lake.
During her first week with the foundation, Keller said she has mostly been getting to know the ins and outs of the organization. Each day provides a new opportunity, according to Keller, who added that she is looking forward to the upcoming weeks as she meets more local residents and partners outside of the organization.