Kathleen Fluegel accepted the position of Executive Director of HRK Foundation in March 2000. Twenty plus years later she is announcing her retirement at the end of 2020.
With a background in development, Kathleen was well connected and respected in our communities, and has been integral to the strong relationships we have built with our grantees. Over Kathleen’s tenure, she has been dedicated to helping grantees grow and thrive through HRK’s funding, providing connections to other people and organizations, and being a microphone for their good work. As an esteemed advisor to the trustees, she has helped cultivate our values of general operating support and active board service.
Signature initiatives under Kathleen’s leadership include being on the forefront of promoting program‐ related‐investments (“PRIs”) and adding them to HRK’s toolbox, promoting access to healthy food as a social justice issue, and adding a racial equity and inclusion lens to every grant made. Kathleen is never one to shy away from a call to action and has been relentless in promoting both awareness and resources for our black, brown, and indigenous neighbors.
Kathleen has been an engaged Board member for three national Funder organizations over the years, beginning with the PRI‐makers Network, two terms with Mission Investors Exchange, and she is serving her second term with the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders ‐‐ a leader in addressing racial equity across the food system. She is a sought‐after speaker both locally and nationally.
Kathleen will be deeply missed by trustees and colleagues, especially for her leadership, quick wit, fashion sense (she excels in accessorizing), and of course, her infectious laugh. One of Kathleen’s classic lines when things did not go according to plan, is: I am sorry that didn’t work out, but you LOOK
good! This line always brought a laugh and a smile and eased the disappointment. Kathleen’s kind and caring spirit has made her renowned for her warm hugs, beautiful cards with blessings, flowers from her gorgeous garden, and thoughtful care packages (her soup jars and sourdough bread are famous).
Kathleen will be missed by our community partners and a few have shared what Kathleen’s leadership has meant to them and their organizations:
‘Although we are delighted for Kathleen on her retirement she will be deeply missed. Since her first trip to the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge Reservations in South Dakota in 2011, First Peoples Fund and our partners have benefited from her tireless efforts in advocating for Indian country. Her commitment and passion to educate those around her about the intersection between arts, culture and racial justice are truly honorable. We are forever grateful for Kathleen’s leadership, tenacity and community spirit. We will miss her sharp‐witted sense of humor, unwavering ability to speak the truth and most importantly her regular presence. But we hope to have her friendship for life.’ FPF president, Lori Pourier and board of directors.
From Pakou Hang, Co‐founder of Hmong American Farmers Association: ‘Kathleen is the kind of professional you hope is in philanthropy, someone who sees and acts with her heart; she is the kind of friend you pray you’ll have, a bosom buddy you can share your triumphs and tribulations with; and she is the kind of human being that you wish the world was full of: good, kind and giving. Congratulations on this momentous achievement, thank you for all that you’ve done to lift up people and causes that were in the shadows, and best wishes on your next adventure!’
Otis Zanders, Ujamaa Place’s CEO & President says: ‘Ujamaa Place has grown from a “dream” within the St. Paul Community to an organization that serves more then 1,000 African American young men each year. Most of these citizens have been subjected to racial injustice all of their lives. Ujamaa Place would not be where it is today without the support and encouragement of Kathleen Fluegel who listened to our dreams and helped us prepare for our future. We will miss this beautiful soul who cares deeply for the plight of those we serve. We wish her well in her retirement. There is a century old African Proverb that sums Kathleen up best:
Kindness is a language which the blind can see and the deaf can hear.’
Kathleen’s parting words as she prepares for retirement are: ‘It has been an honor to work with HRK’s open and insightful board members for the last two decades as we have learned and grown together. I am grateful to them, my colleagues, and to our extraordinary community partners for their patience and generosity over the years.”
We hope Kathleen’s days after retirement are filled with bicycle riding, hula hooping, gardening, and tooling around in her retro orange VW bug.