Last month, Solid Ground lost a critical member of our team. A quiet but steady and positive leader, Kathleen Penna passed away peacefully at her parents’ home following a prolonged illness. She was 34 years old.
Most recently part of Solid Ground’s Finance team as Strategic Information Systems Manager, she held a variety of roles during her years with Solid Ground, from Washington Reading Corps AmeriCorps Member (and later Program Assistant), to Penny Harvest Program Assistant, to Lettuce Link Program Coordinator (and later Manager), to Interim Hunger and Food Resources Director. Through all of these roles, Kathleen brought a quiet, committed leadership and integrity – so it’s no wonder she was chosen by her colleagues to receive Solid Ground’s 2017 Integrity Employee Award.
Jennifer Gahagan, Solid Ground Volunteer Services Manager, says, “I miss Kathleen’s presence. Through all her roles and changes at Solid Ground, she was kind, consistent, centered, steady, and hardworking. I could always count on her to follow through and follow up. She was committed to our mission and to supporting volunteers. She even recruited her grandmother to knit for RSVP’s Knit-It-All program.”
Simone Marrion, former Solid Ground Washington Reading Corps Supervisor, remembers Kathleen fondly, both as a coworker and a friend: “Kathleen was one of my most beloved former AmeriCorps members. She was competent, trustworthy, and true. Kathleen had so much integrity and was never a ‘look at me’ person. I was always so impressed with her desire to do things quietly and without calling attention to herself.”
“Kathleen could and did make clarity out of chaos and led within the noise in a gentle and kind way. Her intellect was whip smart, and she always lent forward to help, but in the most supportive and inclusive way possible.” ~Finance Director Shelly Holmes Parrish
Committed to race and social justice, Kathleen was an active participant in Solid Ground’s Anti-Racism Initiative and Undoing Racism White Caucus for many years. Simone says, “She really took to heart [Solid Ground’s] anti-racism work, and in her quiet way defended and promoted her fellow Latinx team member who was facing daily identity abrasions and discrimination.”
She was also an original member of Solid Ground’s Communications Functional Leadership Team, providing invaluable input and support during our 2016 website redesign process. If you search our Groundviews Blog Growing and Giving category between 2009-2014, you’ll find countless posts by Kathleen from her days with our former Lettuce Link and AmeriCorps programs. As a first-time homeowner in 2016, she was a willing “poster child” for our 2016 Vote YES!forHomes advocacy campaign …
… and she even overcame her natural inclination to stay behind the scenes to play the character of Link from Legend of Zelda in Solid Ground’s 2016 GiveBIG video, Be the “Link” to Vital Resources:
In short, Kathleen consistently and generously contributed to our Solid Ground community in whatever ways she could, while she could. Solid Ground’s Finance Director and Kathleen’s final supervisor, Shelly Holmes Parrish, writes, “Kathleen could and did make clarity out of chaos and led within the noise in a gentle and kind way. Her intellect was whip smart, and she always lent forward to help, but in the most supportive and inclusive way possible. She was always someone who wanted to not be the center of attention and keep drama at a minimum. I will miss her greatly.”
On her wall at home, Shelly has a quote from poet Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata (1948), which she feels epitomizes Kathleen:
“GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.”
True to her generous spirit, her obituary makes this request of us: “Kathleen would like you to be kind and care for each other and donate to a charity of your choice.”
Our hearts go out to Kathleen’s loving family and friends. We are grateful for the countless gifts of kindness and wisdom she brought to our Solid Ground community during her too-short time with us.