A native Michigander with experience building awareness for the American Heart Association is the nonprofit’s new executive director in the region.
The American Heart Association in West Michigan said last week that it has named Kimberly Earnshaw to the role in Grand Rapids.
Most recently, Earnshaw was the director for corporate events and development at the American Heart Association in Kalamazoo for the last three years.
“West Michigan is such a thriving community, and there are amazing things here,” Earnshaw said. “To be able to part of impacting a healthier community is a really great honor for me and a really great challenge as well. It goes hand in hand.”
While working with the Grand Rapids-based team on daily educational initiatives, such as working with employers, the association’s youth market and advocacy programs, Earnshaw said an important aspect of her position as executive director includes meeting with community members and leaders.
“Part of my role is really getting out in the community right now and meeting a lot of the leaders, forming a board of directors, working with our leadership teams and really meeting people on the street,” Earnshaw said. “Our big thing is meeting people where they are and trying to address how we can raise awareness of cardiovascular disease and stroke, not only risks, but also what can individuals do to make it not a risk.”
With an overall goal to grow the nonprofit’s Grand Rapids’ presence through developing partnerships with both individuals and corporations, Earnshaw said the relationships will ensure the initiatives impact health in West Michigan, and the board will help to engage a broader audience.
Several of the association’s programs in West Michigan include teaching gardens to encourage school children to eat more fruits and vegetables, cooking classes for parents, fit friendly work-site initiative, CPR training, Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart school programs and advocacy efforts for access to quality health care.
The association also hosts local events such as the Grand Rapids Heart Ball, Grand Rapids Heart Walk and Go Red for Women Luncheon.
“I want to make sure people recognize the healthy choice is the easy choice and that it needs to be, whether it is at this moment or we are evolving to that,” Earnshaw said. “It is a big issue for us as a group here in our office. We are looking at building the community and individual, so it is a culture of health for everybody, so they can live a fuller and healthier life. It is not out of reach.”
With her familiarity with the association and experience raising its awareness, Earnshaw said her background will benefit her in the new leadership role.
“My background is really about getting people excited and getting people committed,” Earnshaw said. “If you believe in something, people will believe in it too. I come from the American Heart Association in another city, so I understand what we do. I believe in our mission, and it is a real personal thing for me too. The day I stop getting emotional when I hear somebody’s story, even if I have heard it before, is the day I leave.”