KP Partnership for a Healthy Community Goes Independent

Once a committee of the KP Council, the partnership has left the nest.


As the Key Peninsula Partnership for a Healthy Community approaches its 6-year anniversary under the leadership of executive directors Ben and Susan Paganelli, the organization has filed for its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. The partnership, sponsored by the KP Community Council in 2015 with funding from the Milgard Family Foundation, formerly fell under the fiscal umbrella of the community council.

The partnership’s work primarily involves facilitating effective communication, collaboration, and resource sharing among existing local organizations with the goal of improving accessibility to health care on the KP.

“We say that broadly in terms of dental, mental, substance, physical — to improve access to the point where anyone can get it,” Ben Paganelli said. “We have a community action plan which is organic, and it grows and changes.”

The partnership has identified hunger, transportation, and health and wellness as primary issues that affect well-being on the KP, and the results of their efforts typically spread throughout the community via service providers such as Bischoff Food Bank, the Mustard Seed Project and Food Backpacks 4 Kids (See “One Year In: KP Partnership for a Healthy Community Celebrates and Faces a Challenge,” KP News, March 2017).

The partnership played a role in recruiting two new health centers to the KP, as well as collaboratively coordinating free dental clinics. “The dental situation is actively improving, but it ain’t done yet. It ain’t fixed,” Ben said. “It’s one step at a time. All these problems have multiple aspects to them and that’s why it requires teamwork to address them.”

“We do so much cross-organizational work. We have talked to, over the five years, hundreds of people and organizations,” said Susan Paganelli, a former teacher who came to the partnership with a master’s degree in international human rights and extensive volunteer and nonprofit experience. She and Ben also own Via LLC, a consulting business that focuses on cross-organizational and cross-cultural consulting. “We can make steps towards long-term solutions because we can help pull together the people who are in positions to make changes.”

“To take an asset-based approach is important because it’s what we have versus what we need,” she said. “What does the community have and how do we best use those assets to full advantage?”

Partnership board president Frank DiBiase, who met the Paganellis while working for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and later became involved with the partnership as a member of its steering committee, said their work focuses on supporting longstanding, existing service providers on the peninsula. “It’s really an active listening role, that then feeds into seeking resources to help address challenges in the community,” he said.

Before the partnership was formed, the Milgard Family Foundation, longstanding, philanthropic donors on the KP, had been approached by local nonprofits with requests for support every year that “seemed redundant because they were by different organizations but trying to address the same problem on the Key Peninsula,” Ben said. “Milgard expressed that they felt that the money they were giving was not necessarily moving the needle significantly enough in a coordinated way on the Key Peninsula.”

The goal of moving that needle more systematically, more sustainably, long-term, was what led to the original idea behind the partnership, its formation, and its work today.

“A big part of what I see the partnership doing is trying to improve communication in the community itself to better understand what the strengths of the community are, but also what some of the challenges are,” DiBiase said.

“The KP is such a phenomenal community,” said Ben, who grew up in New York, has lived and worked all over the world, had an operational career in the Air Force and was a strategic planner for NATO before landing here. “Our mission is to try to support as many of the organizations as we can.”

The partnership recently received a $100,000 grant from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates on the KP. Some of those funds have been distributed to various community organizations, including the Children’s Home Society of Washington-Key Peninsula Family Resource Center and KP Community Services, for things like vaccination clinics, outreach, education and training.

“The partnership has shown that there is a way for people to cooperate and collaborate with each other and it can be of additional benefit, not to the detriment of their own organizations or to the detriment of the community,” DiBiase said. “I think there’s almost inherent in the process of what’s happening, a sustainability mechanism to doing this work in the community.”

“By the partnership becoming its own 501(c)(3), it made it easier to apply for grants to organizations because now the partnership can serve as its own fiscal agent and manage its own finances,” he said. “It just kind of simplifies things in terms of administration.”

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