Kelli Hess

Kelli Hess

TOMMY MARTINO, Missoulian

Kelli Hess loves to say yes to every opportunity, whether it’s a fundraiser or project at the Missoula Food Bank.

Hess came to the Missoula Food Bank two years ago as director of operations after 16 years as a director at the Missoula YMCA.

Hess manages day-to-day operations and works in a good mix of hands-on tasks and high-level strategic planning, to see programs through.

Under her direction, the food bank has increased service by 400 percent and expanded its programming to include thousands more people in need, from young children to homebound seniors.

“The end game is so important,” Hess said. “When a kid could be hungry after school today … that’s easy to stand behind.”

Hess said among the YMCA, Food Bank and PTA, she’s meeting her goals of doing meaningful work, that keeps her energetic and inspired no matter how many projects are on her plate.

Near the end of May, Hess was working on moving into the food bank’s new building on Wyoming Street, which opened at the end of May without — Hess was proud to say — any gap in services during the yearlong construction and move.

“Building the nicest food bank in the world is quite the accomplishment,” she said. “This is like a blank slate right now.”

Hess also stays busy as the secretary (and former president) of the Lewis and Clark Elementary Parent-Teacher Association.

“Volunteering really is my passion in life,” Hess said. “Being involved in important work.”

Hess’ tenure on the PTA began close to seven years ago, when her kids started attending Lewis and Clark elementary.

Now the oldest has moved to Washington Middle School, but two kids still draw Hess’ efforts to the school, leading the yearly fundraiser, a “hop” with different yearly themes: Disco Hop, Sock Hop, Western Hop.

The one-night event brings in $10,000 to fund field trips, classroom scholarships and Missoula Writing Collaborative workshops.

Lisa Hayhurst, Lewis and Clark's family resource center specialist, said she’s continually impressed by Hess’ enthusiasm and ideas running the Hop.

Hess updated the event’s themes and last year came in under budget and raised more than $10,000, Hayhurst said.

“She just continues to show up and shows up with a smile on her face.”

Hess explained her energy and enthusiasm for taking on project after project as a result of her high standards and interest in staying involved.

And she has no inkling to slow down anytime soon.

“(I) not only want it to be done, I want to work to make it happen,” she said. “I plan to continue to work as hard as I possibly can for causes that are important to me.”

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City, County Government Reporter

Government Reporter for The Missoulian.