Article originally appeared in the Fort Bend Herald
Bidding Dee a sweet adieu
Love, grace, giving, best friend, compassionate, joyful, enthusiastic and inspirational.
These were some of the words family, friends and former colleagues of Dee Koch used to describe her at the 4th Annual Mission of Love Gala Thursday night at the Safari Texas Ranch in Richmond. Proceeds raised benefit Catholic Charities.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and The Mamie George Community Center held the gala in honor of Dee Koch, her life, her legacy, her past leadership and her lasting influence to Fort Bend County.
Dee has developed two community engagement programs — Youth-in-Philanthropy (YIP) and the Leadership Excellence for Nonprofit program — and as The George Foundation director of community engagement, presented grants totaling $135 million.
She has been instrumental in various community projects including the George Memorial Library, Access Health, the University of Houston Sugar Land, Memorial Hermann, the Fort Bend County Museum and the Mamie George Community Center.
Former Catholic Charities CEO/President Bonna Kol recalled her favorite memory with Dee, a significant moment when the vision of the Mamie George Community Center all began.
“Dee and I met for breakfast one day and she wanted me to talk about Catholic Charities’ vision for Fort Bend,” shared Bonna. “We were at La Madeleine Cafe and I took a piece of paper and I started sketching a building.
“In my sketches, it showed a community center for seniors, for the youth, for families in need. Dee looked at me, she grabbed the piece of paper and said, ‘I want this in Fort Bend. I want this for us in Richmond, Texas. Can you make it happen?”
And they did. In 2011, the Mamie George Community Center was born. It has since helped invigorate the lives of senior residents by providing hot meals, socialization, a wellness center, a cafe, a grocery market and creative aging activities — including art, music and drama, to improve the quality of life.
“Dee wears many, many hats for this community,” shared The George Foundation Chairman John Null. “Through the George Foundation, she started and is still involved with YIP (Youth-in-Philanthropy). She is someone that created great things for our young people to communicate well, work together, build strong leadership for the future as well as leverage for the years to come.
“I’m honored to work alongside her for such a long period, but much more so to call her my friend.”
As guests enjoyed their dinner, a video by Meeko Spark was presented. Dee’s bountiful friends and family shared their favorite memories — of friendship, community involvement and exotic travels, their bids farewell and how she has influenced their life for the better.
Fort Bend Steering Committee member Gene Reed shared that he has known Dee for over 30 years since they began working together on the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce.
His favorite memory was witnessing “Dee’s enthusiasm with the children in the Youth in Philanthropy program. She’s so dedicated to that endeavor. To watch her operate is really endearing to watch,” he observed.
Fort Bend ISD Trustee Jim Rice, who has known Dee for 16 years, echoed Gene’s sentiments.
“I think Dee’s biggest accomplishment in Fort Bend County has been her work with youth,” he noted. “In particular, her Youth in Philanthropy program which has introduced young people to the needs of many of their peers. It has encouraged a sense of giving back to the community.
“Each generation stands on the shoulders of the ones which preceded it. And Dee has left a legacy for our young people and has given them a great perspective to continue the work that she thus far begun.”
Catholic Charities President/CEO Cynthia N. Colbert, MSW said if she were to pick three words to describe Dee, it would be: Make change happen.
“Everywhere you go in Fort Bend County, somebody knows Dee,” she said. “She is everywhere and she knows everyone. One long-lasting gift to the community is her ability to meet people where they are, connect them and make changes happen that make the community better and a better place for children.
“She has certainly taught me the value of getting out there, meeting people and putting people together so we leverage our gifts and our strengths. She brings people together so that the whole is always greater than the individual parts.”
As for what else Dee has taught others? Master of Ceremonies and Fort Bend Steering Committee member Chris Breaux, who has known Dee since 1988, shared a philosophy she has instilled in him.
“The person who needs the most help is probably the person who can least help you,” he said. “She’s always focused on folks who can’t do her any good quite frankly.”