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United Way names accountant its executive director

DIXON – “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”

That’s a philosophy Jenny Koch lives by.

And that’s just one of the things that make Koch such a good fit for her new job.

The longtime CPA is the new executive director of the United Way of Lee County, the agency said in a news release Friday.

Koch, 37, of Dixon, has been involved with United Way for nearly 15 years.

She succeeds Susan Hohlen, who led the agency from 2006 until her death from cancer on April 24.

“Jenny holds the same passion for the United Way as Sue did,” Chad Nicklaus, UWLC board president, said in the release. “She knows our organization, our community, and she knows fundraising. And as a CPA, she brings excellent professional qualifications to this job.”

A Lee County native, Koch was a United Way volunteer from 1999 to 2009, and has since been a campaign co-chairwoman, a board member, and board treasurer.

“I’ve personally witnessed the United Way’s positive impact on our county,” Koch said in the release. “This is truly a labor of love for me. I’m eager to help my hometown community in this meaningful role.” 

Riding herd on the annual fundraising campaign, which begins in September, is a big part of her new full-time job. Last year, United Way raised more than $408,000 in pledges for its 26 member agencies, and, she wants people to know, “99 percent of the money stays in Lee County.”

One of her big goals goes hand in hand with that task: Not only does Koch want to make sure her members get the money they need, but she wants to raise their profiles within the community and help them to get whatever they need to fulfill their own missions.

Like everyone else, local charities and social service providers are struggling, in the wake of state and federal budget cuts, to hold on to staff and maintain their programs. They must do more with less and find ways to supplement the loss. Koch wants to help.

“One of my goals as executive director is to determine what else can be done to meet our agencies’ needs, ... so they can focus on what they do best: provide their services.”

So another of Koch’s goals is getting people – especially 20- and 30-somethings – to see the value in becoming United Way contributors and volunteers. Or, as she puts it, “What else can I do to make the public aware, especially the generation below me, why this is so important?”

She sees a major resource in Sauk Valley Community College and hopes to start a United Way student chapter. Social media will be one of her main tools in reaching that audience, Koch said.

Passionate is a good word for Koch. When you’re talking United Way, she positively vibrates with it.

Another of her goals, then, is to get everyone in the community to see what she sees: the absolute good that her agency, her members, her volunteers, make happen every day. And maybe to recognize and support that good by lending a hand or donating a few dollars.

“One single donation is pooled with another, and another, and another,” she said. “The impact is so very large, and I just want people to understand that that’s what this is all about.”

About Jenny Koch

CPA Jenny Koch, United Way of Lee County's new executive director, was manager for 16 years at the accounting firm Wipfli LLP in Dixon before taking the United Way position.

In addition to nearly 15 years with the United Way, in December 2010 she was named the Dixon Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Future Leader, an award presented each year to a person 35 or younger who has taken an active role in his or her community through work or by volunteering.

Among the other organizations in which Koch had been involved are Dixon Main Street, Dixon Chamber of Commerce, Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk, American Heart Association’s Heart Walk, Steps for Strays and CASA, the guardian ad litem program for children in the court system. In her younger days, she worked with students in the reading program at Lincoln Elementary School and tutored at St. Mary’s School.

Koch graduated from Dixon High School in 1994 and Sauk Valley College in 1996, and she earned a bachelor’s degree in accountancy from Northern Illinois University in 1998.

She lives in Dixon with her husband, Gary, 48, a highway maintainer for the Illinois Department of Transportation, and has two stepdaughters, Karly, 20 and Kacey, 16. Her parents are former KSB Hospital CEO and President Darryl and Linda Vandervort, both longtime community volunteers. Her in-laws are Gordon and Sherry Koch of Amboy.

About United Way of Lee County

Founded in 1958, the United Way of Lee County administers funds to, and otherwise supports, 26 local social service agencies with money raised during its annual fall campaign.

Community groups also can apply for funding through the Joan Sheridan Special Allocation Fund. Established in honor of the longtime community volunteer, it provides one-time support to member or nonmember agencies and individuals seeking to meet a community need within Lee County. The request is capped at $500.

Those interested in volunteering for this year's campaign, which begins in September, or those who simply want more information on the agency, can Find United Way of Lee County on Facebook, go to or call 815-284-3339.

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