In the United States, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death, affecting 5.7 million individuals. In Pennsylvania alone, that number is about 400,000. Since its inception, the Alzheimer’s Association has been working to eradicate the disease. At the helm of the Delaware Valley chapter is Kristina Fransel, who took over as executive director in January. Fransel has worked in nonprofits for 21 years, most at the Multiple Sclerosis Society. After several years in North Carolina, she has returned to the Philadelphia area.
MLT: Why nonprofits?
KF: I have a great passion for volunteer engagement. I found a niche for myself in engaging individuals. What really makes me tick is when I can identify in a person a skill, talent or desire to do something that aligns with a strategic plan for a nonprofit organization and allows them to feel impactful because they’re able to help us move the needle in that area.
MLT: Was there anything that drew you to the MS Society?
KF: I knew I wanted to give back to the community in some way, and I just had the good fortune to find something I was able to do well and add to my extended family and network of amazing people touched by the disease.
MLT: What prompted your transition back to the Delaware Valley and the Alzheimer’s Association?
KF: I was looking for the next challenge in my career. I knew that I most likely wanted to come back home to Philly, and I got a really good sense of the nonprofit landscape here. The Alzheimer’s Association is really addressing a significant need. Alzheimer’s affects more than five million Americans, and the rate at which the diagnosis is increasing is significant. It’s been acknowledged as the largest unrecognized public health crisis in the U.S.
MLT: What are your goals for your first year?
KF: I am a regional leader for all of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, while at the same time playing a dual role as the executive director for the Greater Delaware Valley chapter. Locally speaking, our Philadelphia Walk to End Alzheimer’s has been number one for years, and last year we lost our footing and we were number four—and that’s [still] a good thing. Overall, we’re growing in revenue and funds raised. But we are competitive, and we like to be number one. From a regional perspective, it’s about trying to identify what strengths we have and the opportunities across the region [for partnerships].
MLT: What do you wish people knew about Alzheimer’s?
KF: I’ve learned that so many people have a connection, whether it’s Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia. Having that dialogue raises awareness about just how widespread this disease is and the impact it has. The more ambassadors we have in a community, the better people will be able to connect with the services the Alzheimer’s Association offers.