Longtime foundation chair steps down

Published 9:45 am Thursday, July 2, 2015

John Ryder, COO, Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital, presents a recognition gift to Karen Judd for her years of service to the health ministry. (Submitted photo)

John Ryder, COO, Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital, presents a recognition gift to Karen Judd for her years of service to the health ministry.
(Submitted photo)

When Karen Judd signed on to become one of the founding board members of the Lee Memorial Foundation back in 1988, the newly formed fundraising organization’s sole assets were its name and a 501C3 designation.

A member and former chair of the Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital board of trustees at the time of the foundation’s creation, Judd saw another unique opportunity to serve her community by helping to get the fledgling offshoot of the hospital up and running, she said.

“One of our goals at that time was to start a foundation for the hospital, and I wanted to see that through,” Judd said.

Nearly three decades later, Judd has done just that, as she and the other foundation leaders are responsible for raising millions of dollars worth of new equipment, improvements and renovations for the lone hospital located within Cass County.

After spending more than 20 years as the head of the Lee-Memorial Foundation board, Judd presided over her last meeting as chair last week. The Dowagiac resident has decided to step down as chair of the board of trustees, spending the remaining two years of her term in a non-officer position, Judd said.

Taking over for her as board chair is Tom Carlson, the vice president of Hannapel Home Center and a longtime trustee with the foundation board.

“I would like to spend the last couple years of my term staying active, but in a non-leadership position,” Judd said. “We have a good person to take over the position. I feel very comfortable about the move.”

Judd, a resident of the Dowagiac for more than 50 years, first became involved with the local hospital back in 1979, when she was asked by the hospital leadership to join their board of trustees. The board created the Lee Memorial Foundation in the late 80s as a way to raise additional money for the facility, in response to the changing ways that it and other healthcare institutions were receiving funding, Judd said.

“The hospital has always had a lot of needs, and this was one way for the community to help support it,”
Judd said.

The foundation raised its first $100,000 for new state-of-the-art equipment for the hospital through its first fundraiser initiative, The Cornerstone Club, where people could donate $100 a year over the course of 10 years, Judd said. Today, the foundation holds two major annual fundraisers: the Lee Memorial Golf Outing in July and the Wine and Beer Tasting event in August. The foundation also sponsors Borgess Health’s annual Tree of Hope fundraiser, which takes place in December.

The foundation has enjoyed plenty of success in raising funds for the local hospital over the years, including a $3 million overhaul of its emergency services area several years ago, Judd said.

“It’s amazing what we’ve been able to do in this community,” she said. “All we had to do was just ask…it’s amazing what you can do when you put your efforts into something.”

The foundation is currently in the midst of wrapping up its most recent capital campaign, called “It’s About The Place We Call Home.” The $1 million fundraising effort will go toward interior and exterior renovations to the Dowagiac hospital, including to the building’s entrance and registration area. The campaign also seeks to purchase new medical beds and state-of-the-art surgical instruments.

Beyond mere financial figures, the biggest legacy Judd will leave in her wake is helping to foster a closer bond between the hospital and the people it serves, she said.

“I think we’ve created a relationship with the rest of the community through our efforts,” Judd said.