Event to honor her set for Jan. 6 at Hastings Public House
By John McLoone
After 17 years at the helm of Hastings Family Service and 34 years working for her community in the non-profit sector, Chris Koop officially joins the “Every Day is Saturday Club” later this month.
“It’s going to be an interesting month, lot to do, lots to think about,” said Koop. “My husband retired a year-and-a-half ago, and calls it the “Every Day is Saturday Club. I’m going to be a member.’ Koop officially passes the torch to Amy Sutton, who has worked at HFS for 12 years.
“It’s in such a good place,” she said of HFS, which was started in the late 1960s as a place where clothes and coats could be available for school children in need. A challenge to meet the broader needs of the Hastings community was taken on, and HFS rented its location with a $1,500 grant from the United Way in 1970. HFS offers a variety of important, needed services to the community and has grown over the years to meet those needs.
Koop recalls seeing an ad in the local newspaper and updating her resume when Hastings Family Service was in need of a new director.
“I had lived in Hastings for 20 years and had worked in the non-profit sector my entire career. I said to my husband a year before, ‘I wonder what I could do in Hastings?’ Three interviews later, I was selected. That’s where it all started,” she recalled.
It’s been a perfect fit. “I have a master’s degree in psychology and a masters in community counseling. I knew I liked helping people. I found I was better at how to help people, setting up the system and doing it well,” she said. “Over the years, I had the great blessing to be a part of the non-profit sector. The mission of helping the community is first and foremost, and that’s really important to me.”
She had helped with some food drives but stepping into Hastings Family Service was an eye-opening experience.
“I really had no idea what happened there every day. I was flabbergasted at what the need was and that there were hungry people living in our community. I didn’t think that problem existed in Hastings,” she said.
HFS clients are asked the question if anyone in their household missed a meal in the last month. In 2005, 23 percent of those people answered “yes.”
“Today, that number is close to 50 percent,” said Koop. “Hunger is greater than it was years ago. People assume living in Hastings, you don’t really see hungry people. There are children in your school, children in your church, children in your neighborhoods that are hungry. We hear of parents not eating and saving food so their kids can get meals.”
Koop credits the Hastings community with embracing HFS and the needs it is filling.
“We’ve been very blessed. The community of Hastings really supports us and believes in the mission. Little kids are learning about Hastings Family service when they’re in school. Organizations hold food drives for us. There are churches in our community that have done campaigns to renovate their space, and they’ve dedicated 10 percent of the money to Hastings Family Service. People have birthdays or anniversaries, and they say, ‘We don’t want gifts. We want you to support Hastings Family Service.’ It’s extraordinary, and it’s not that way in many of our neighboring communities.”
Koop has worked hard and has been dedicating to helping HFS meet the community needs, but she attributes the success of the organization to those who built its foundation.
“I attribute it to the many people before me, before I got involved. It’s part of how the organization was established 51 years ago. Great leaders and great staff have educated the community,” she said.
HFS sees a lot of people they help return the favor.
“We hear the story all the time of people who came here when they were kids, and they come in and donate. We had a voicemail recently from a local family, and they said, ‘You guys helped us when we were starting out so this year, we want to help you.’ They made a significant donation. It’s really amazing.”
Koop knows HFS will continue to thrive. “The organization is in a great place right now. There are so many great programs. Amy Sutton will do great as the new executive director. She’s really equipped to continue the course and help keep the mission front and center for the community.”
Koop is retiring to the Hayward, Wis. area. And while she’s joining that “Every Day Is Saturday Club,” she’s still going to dig in and help.
“I’m excited to see what our next mission will be. I want to get involved in the non-profit community up here.”
An open house will be held Jan. 6 from 5-7
p.m. at the Hastings Public House to honor Koop’s “Career of help and hope.” Gifts to HFS will be accepted in Koop’s honor.