Women's History Month: Kamesha
March 02, 2023
Director, Community Benefit
We start this series with Kamesha Robinson, director of community benefit. Kamesha talked about serving the community, why it is so important to her and how she brings her passion to Legacy.
Talk briefly about your role with community benefit.
As director of community benefit, I oversee Legacy’s benefit activities, programs and services that we give to the community. Those activities span our entire organization, from unreimbursed care to in-kind donations to grants that we give to community-based organizations like Self Enhancement Inc. and the Latino Network. I also oversee our community health improvement plans, community health needs assessments and (the) resourcing of those plans.
How long have you been at Legacy?
How did you get to Legacy?
I’ve always been in service to the community. When I heard about the position at Legacy, I was working at Multnomah County Public Health. This (job at Legacy) was like what I was doing over there with community health improvement plans. This position brought everything together.
How did you get into this field?
I come from a family of public servants. I started volunteering at my church clothing closet when I was young. I also volunteered in the summers with my mom working with children and adults with developmental disabilities. I’ve just been in jobs serving the community for more than 25 years.
Who were your role models growing up?
My favorite role model was my grandfather. I had a unique relationship with him. I grew up watching “Crossfire” and other political shows with my grandfather. The conversations he had with my uncle and my dad were always about community and what was going on in the world. I watched him and how he navigated and talked about the world. He stressed the importance of giving back, making right with things, and fairness.
What did you take away from that?
Listening. Everybody’s position has a space and it’s valued. I think that today I show up as a listener.
Is your career path something that you chose or discovered as a child?
It’s a bit of both. As I mentioned, I started volunteering when I was young. That created an interest in serving and for the last 25 years, my work has been in service to the community. I started with the regional drug initiative then moved around in human social services, working with schools and community-based organizations. It’s always been a sequential path. Thankfully, this was one of my stops to drive funding to community organizations.
How would you like to see Legacy improve the workplace to help women who may want to enter this field?
I’d love to see some mentoring for people coming into the organization. It’s hard to learn the culture with an organization. You can’t learn that in the policies and procedures. Having a mentor helps you navigate the organization in a more formal way. That’s important for the people that come after me and for the sustainability of the organization.
Do you feel like being a woman has had an impact on your work?
Interestingly, I’ve worked in a field that has been woman dominated. Being a woman of color also gives me perspective. It helps me, in situations of difference, to keep my focus on my “why.” Why I’m here.
When you say your “why,” can you explain what you mean by that?
My “why” is I’m here for the community. I want to minimize duplicative efforts, to help our resources get to the community in a meaningful way to reduce disparities and inequities.
What messages did you hear that encouraged you to pursue your dreams?
My parents have always been from the camp of “you can do it.” You can go to grad school and work two jobs; you got this. I show up to challenges knowing this is hard, but I can do it. I appreciate them for instilling in me that perspective.
What advice or words of encouragement would you give a young woman?
Focus on your “why.” Come into an organization and listen. You can get far by listening before speaking.
What assets do you bring to your work because of your personal experience?
Humility. I try to center humility in all that I do. I always think about those that are vulnerable or come from marginalized communities.
What is your favorite thing about your work?
When I get out into the community. Seeing people that I’ve worked with in my 20’s and hearing how proud they are of me, that’s the most rewarding and reminds me why I’m here.