The Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation’s effort to make the Plateau one of the healthiest areas in the state took another step forward in March when René Popke was hired as its first executive director.
Since changing the Hospital in its name to Healthcare in 2006, the nonprofit, volunteer-run agency has been broadening its focus and wanted someone to oversee its growth and operations.
According to ERHF President Kaylee Garrett, the Foundation continues to support St. Elizabeth Hospital, but is expanding its focus to meet the needs community leaders outlined during a series of surveys and healthcare summits the past several years.
From those meetings, leaders wanted to see more focus on access for everyone, mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse and violence protection.
A consultant was hired to help the board establish a plan to go hand in hand with the communities’ desires and its mission statement to actively support quality health services in those communities.
“Our goal is to have one of the healthiest communities in the state of Washington,” Garrett said.
Foundation trustees knew the communities already had groups working on these issues, so it formed the Foothills Regional Healthcare Network to join forces with them.
The plan kept circling back to the need for a director.
“It was a difficult decision for the trustees,” Garrett said of putting someone on the payroll. “But we felt there was so much potential to do more we couldn’t do it without an executive director.”
After a national search, a committee interviewed four candidates.
Garrett said the group kept gravitating toward Popke. The Foundation board’s decision was unanimous.
Not only had she done her research and come in with a plan, but she was excited, Garrett said.
“Her energy was about the Plateau,” Garrett said. She said the Foundation couldn’t go wrong with someone who had that much passion to make the place her family lives a healthy place.
Growing up in the community and raising her family here motivates Popke.
“I have volunteered and promoted programs in the community that has provided extreme gratification over the past 10 years,” Popke said. “The ERHF is an established organization that has accomplished great tasks to support the former Community Hospital and health related needs in and around Enumclaw. “
It will be important to distinguish and market the ERHF mission and goals to the community, she continued. She also wants people to be aware that ERHF funds stay completely local to support healthcare needs locally.
“To be a part of the driving force behind an already favorable Foundation and to be given the opportunity to push it to the next level that benefits the community is extremely self-gratifying, especially when this can be done in my hometown,” she said. “The position will be challenging and meaningful.”
Popke, an Enumclaw High School graduate, attended Green River Community College and Western Washington University where she earned a degree in communications/public relations. She worked for five years on GRCC’s main campus as the director of student activities and then ran the Enumclaw branch until she opted to stay home with her three boys and spend time volunteering at the chamber.
She has most recently partnered as an independent contractor with Jacyln VanHoof to help produce the Enumclaw Street Fair, Chocolate Festival, Octoberfest and Festival of Crafts.
VanHoof will continue to organize those events. Popke will stay on and co-chair the Street Fair at this time.
Those event planning skills and those she used as part of GRCC’s capital campaign bode well for her tasks with the Foundation.
In addition to helping orchestrate the Foundation’s Holiday Fantasy fundraiser, Duck Race and a multitude of other programs, Popke will be working to formulate a comprehensive long-term fundraising plan; develop a marketing plan to provide awareness about the Foundation and its role in the community and create a donor recognition plan.
“There are still a lot of people who don’t know what we do,” Garrett said.
The Foundation continues to support the hospital – especially with funds to purchase equipment like a digital mammography machine and its $600,000 donation to the new hospital – but extends beyond those walls into the streets with programs like the monthly mobile dental unit coming to Enumclaw, and soon Buckley.
With Popke at the helm, the Foundation is preparing to launch a redesigned website and a community resource website called AskFlin, which stands for Foothills Local Information Network.
In the near future, the Foundation will host its first donor recognition event to honor the thousands of Foundation supporters.
Garrett said the move to bring Popke on board has been met with positive energy from former Foundation members and donors. Other community agencies like Auburn Youth Resources and Enumclaw Youth and Family Services leaders are stepping in to help Popke hit the ground running.
“As human services are being cut from every place there’s going to be a greater need,” Garrett said of the Foundation’s role in the community to support overall healthcare.