FIGHTING FOR HEALTH CARE FOR ALL
As the COVID-19 pandemic enters Year No. 2, health care is a critical issue in the Healdsburg community and beyond. Luckily for locals, Kim Bender has their backs.
Bender is the new executive director of the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Sonoma County, and she brings to the role an emphasis on social justice, racial justice, and equal access to services for everyone in the coverage region.
For Bender, the mission is simple: equity, equity, equity.
“So many in our region have great fortune and wealth, but others don’t have the same resources and find themselves struggling,” she said during a recent interview. “We need to focus our efforts in an intentional way on people who don’t have as much—people who are on the margins of our society need better access to mental health services and health care.”
In just about a year on the job, Bender has made significant changes to the way the Healthcare Foundation operates.
For starters, in addition to the Foundation’s strategic grants, she has overseen an emergency COVID-19 grant program that has doled out a total of $245,000 through the organization’s Emergency Healthcare Fund since the pandemic began.
Bender has transformed the way the organization gives money, too, in keeping with a trend in the world of philanthropy toward general operating support. Today, under Bender’s leadership, emergency funding is doled out without restrictions of any kind, empowering grant recipients to determine how they spend the money on their own.
The Los Angeles native even has championed inclusion and diversity for the organization’s board of directors—a push that resulted in four new board members who identify as Latinx. This change means 27 percent of the board’s 15 members are people of color, better representing the demographics of our county.
“Already their voices are changing the conversation,” Bender said.
Bender is no stranger to serving communities in need; she came to the Healthcare Foundation from GLIDE, a nationally recognized center for social justice in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. As senior director of development for GLIDE, Bender raised money to address homelessness, fight systemic injustices, create pathways out of poverty and crisis and transform lives. She described the experience was one of the most “fulfilling” of her life.
Here in Healdsburg, Bender sees a unique opportunity to involve the community in driving real social change.