Local Alzheimer unit leader retires

Another longtime Greater Cincinnati nonprofit leader is retiring.

Paula Kollstedt, executive director of the 37-county Alzheimer Association of Greater Cincinnati, retired April 2 after 10 years at the helm of the organization.

Before joining the Alzheimer’s Association, Kollstedt spent 25 years at GE Aviation as a communications executive in various roles. In 2016, she was honored as a Cincinnati Enquirer Woman of the Year. Kollstedt’s journey to nonprofit leadership was a unique one.

Paula Kollstedt

Kollstedt’s husband, Steve – a GE engineer, pilot, decorated war hero (two Distinguished Flying Crosses, Air Medal with V for valor saving lives in combat) – was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s at age 50. Their youngest child was a freshman in high school at the time and information about the disease was difficult to come by. The family’s neurologist suggested they call the Alzheimer’s Association. Kollstedt said she doesn’t know what their family would have done without the education and support the association provided. She continued to work at GE Aviation for the next 10 years, then when the Alzheimer’s Association approached her about becoming executive director, she said it felt like a great opportunity to apply all that she learned in business and as a caregiver to caring for those battling all dementia, while working to find the first survivor so other families wouldn’t have to endure the terrible losses she did.

Under Kollstedt’s watch, the Alzheimer’s Association saw tremendous growth. Its “Walk to End Alzheimer” grew into a $1 million event. It has grossed $1M for the past five years and today, the Cincinnati Tri-State Walk is the top walk in the country per capita in its population category. Among her accomplishments:

  • Revenue. Grew total contributed revenue for care and cure at the Greater Cincinnati Chapter from $1.4 million in 2010 to $3.17 million 2020.
  • Walks. Grew the Cincinnati Tri-State Walk to End Alzheimer’s from $336,000 in 2011 to more than $1 million each year for the last five years. CTS was the 4th largest WTEA in the country in 2020 – despite COVID.
  • Corporate partnerships. Grew corporate partnership locally from $70,000 to more than $262,000. Worked with the Alzheimer’s Association’s Corporate Initiatives Team to create nationwide partnerships increasing visibility nationally and resulting in more than $1.3 million to support dementia programs, research and public policy. Also worked with the Cincinnati Reds to become part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Major League Baseball Initiative.

Federal research funding for Alzheimer’s has grown from $448M in 2011 to $3.1 billion this year. There have been major advances in Alzheimer’s research. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering a drug that, if approved, would be the first that slows the course of the disease. Yet Alzheimer’s continues to be a major public health crisis with 220,000 people in Ohio living with the disease and a state task force working to put together Ohio’s first State Alzheimer’s Plan.

James P. Sullivan, the local Alzheimer chapter’s board chair, said Kollstedt has been a true servant leader for the organization.

“Paula has excelled in increasing the care and support we deliver to those impacted by this most-feared disease in our region and has continued to raise public awareness toward our goal of finding a cure for this disease within our lifetime,” Sullivan said. “Paula’s passion and mission-driven approach is at the center of her servant leadership of the organization. Her legacy will be the tremendous support we have received from sponsors, patrons, volunteers and donors to enable the Greater Cincinnati chapter to be among the finest in the country for our regional Walks to End Alzheimer’s.”

Eric VanVlymen, Ohio regional leader for the Alzheimer’s Association, is taking on the interim leadership of the local chapter while a search for a successor takes place.

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