Kevin Reynolds Achievement Award Recipient: Lisha Ramsdell


Volunteer Spotlight on this year’s Kevin Reynolds Achievement Award winner, Lisha Ramsdell

On November 6th, Otsego County Community Foundation board member Lisha Ramsdell was awarded the Kevin Reynolds Achievement Award. This award is presented to a board member who goes above and beyond their job description to serve the Otsego County Community Foundation. Nominations are taken from the Board of Directors and voted on by those who have received the award in the past. The award is named after former board member Kevin Reynolds who gave his time, talent and heart to the organization.

What attracted you to become involved with the OCCF?

I first became involved with the Otsego Community Foundation through Leadership Otsego County by serving on OCCF’s grant committee. Through that experience, I had the opportunity to meet so many of the great people associated with the foundation and to see first-hand the many needs of our community. It became apparent very quickly that OCCF is truly the Community’s Foundation. They are in a unique role to grow endowments with the purpose of meeting the future needs of the community—whatever those needs may be.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that this organization does?

The Foundation serves so many different functions, it’s hard to pick just one! For me, it boils down to building and nurturing trusted relationships. Relationships with donors, relationships with community leaders and community members, and relationships with our neighbors. Through these relationships the foundation is uniquely positioned to grow the community’s assets for a bright Otsego County future.

What’s it like to volunteer for the OCCF?

I work for Huron Pines, a nonprofit conservation organization, so know first-hand how important volunteers are to the success of an organization. Volunteering for OCCF is a great experience. I grew up in Gaylord, so being part of an organization that is committed to seeing Otsego County thrive is extremely rewarding for me. The staff – Dana, Amanda and Karin – are true professionals committed to the excellence of the foundation. The board are thoughtful leaders always willing to have open dialogue about the needs of our community and think creatively to find solutions. The foundation also has a whole team of volunteers with a variety of skills and resources, and all share a passion for the work we do. There is a lot of talent, support and energy at the foundation, which makes it a great organization to volunteer for.

What OCCF committees have you been involved with?

I have been involved with the grant committee since 2014. It has been great to see how the committee has evolved and now includes a funding circle or other Otsego County community grantors. It has been a great way to streamline the giving in our community and cumulatively have a larger impact on the people and programs of the county. The grant committee is made up of foundation board members, the business community, and a variety of partners committed to meeting the needs of our county. The people who serve on the committee have a passion for being good stewards of our financial resources—providing our donors with the knowledge that their investment will be used in the most meaningful way.

I’ve also participated on the Branding and Capacity Building Committees. Through those committees we have been able to take a look at the great things we have done in the past, but really focus on what the future of the foundation looks like. Oftentimes it’s easy to maintain status quo, but that’s not the mindset OCCF has. Board, staff and volunteers are always looking ahead and preparing for the future.

What do you hope the organization will achieve soon? In the long term?

In the near-term, I’d love to see the community foundation grow our Cornerstone Fund so that annual operations of the foundation are covered. That way 100% of the focus of the board and staff can be on growing endowments, developing and delivering community programs, convening leaders, and granting funds back to the community.

Does anyone in your life play a role in supporting your involvement? In providing inspiration?

I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector my whole career, so am surrounded by people committed to giving back to their cause, which is truly inspiring! Brad Jensen, the executive director at Huron Pines, has been incredibly supportive of my volunteer role with the foundation. It can be difficult to volunteer when you also have a full-time career, and I hope that more and more businesses see the value of it and support their employees to get involved.

I’m a Gaylord native so being involved with the OCCF, knowing the impact they have in my community where many of my family and friends still reside, is very special to me. When I started volunteering with the foundation I didn’t know many of the people. But everyone was very welcoming, and I’d like to give a special shout out to Paul Hartman and Janice Lampert for taking me under their wing while I was learning my role. I definitely consider both of them super volunteers and something to aspire to!

What do you wish other people knew about the OCCF?

If you’re passionate about the people and places of Otsego County, then there is an opportunity for you to be engaged with the foundation. There is a misconception that you have to be wealthy to participate and that’s just not true. There are many ways to give to your community through the foundation. Every dollar donated and volunteer hour helps makes us all stronger.

Do you have a message to share?

Ask yourself the question “What Matters?” Then find something you are passionate about and give of yourself in a meaningful way. There is so much need out there and we all can do a little bit more to make our community even more vibrant.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering for the OCCF?

Do it! If you know someone involved with the foundation, talk to them about their experiences and satisfaction they get from being involved. If you’re new to the foundation, reach out to staff or a board member to know more, or better yet, participate in an event happening with the foundation. That way you’ll see the foundation in action.