Impacting Their Community, Living Their Faith

| August 1, 2017

Tracy and Ken Janda. photo - Mara Soloway

Tracy and Ken Janda. photo – Mara Soloway

Ken And Tracy Janda’s Efforts Make Life Better In Katy And Beyond

By Mara Soloway

Ken and Tracy Janda have known each other since their childhoods in the small town of Bellville. Life there grounded them in their faith and their love for each other, and instilled in each a penchant for community service. After they left Bellville, they began to build a family and a life together of helping improve the lives of others.

Tracy, 60, was two years behind Ken, 61, in school, but they knew each other – he had played on baseball teams her father coached and they were in band and on the school newspaper together. They started dating in high school, and recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Both their daughter, Allie, and son, Greg, are married and live in the Dallas area, and the Jandas have four grandchildren. Ken and Tracy are proud that both of their children graduated from Cinco Ranch High School, which they helped open, with Greg being a member of the first class that went through all four years. The Jandas have continued to devote their time and talents to Katy ISD.

The Jandas married after each attended Rice University. Tracy earned a bachelor’s degree in pre-law and Ken triple-majored in economics, managerial studies and anthropology. Ken also earned a law degree from the University of Houston.

Ken is the CEO of Community Health Choice, a nonprofit health insurance company, which he said is growing very rapidly and competing with the big insurance companies such as those he used to work for (Prudential, Humana and Aetna). A nonprofit model means that profits become community benefit dollars to help build capacity for low-income families to have access to health care. Community Health Choice supports numerous organizations that provide low-income people with access to health care, including Christ Clinic in Katy, the Spring Branch Community Health centers, Access Health in Fort Bend County and the Harris County Hospital District.

Ken is on the boards of directors of Christ Clinic and San Jose Clinic, and he is in leadership positions in significant industry advocacy groups: the Center for Public Policy Priorities and the Texas Association of Health Plans based in Austin, and the National Association of Community Affiliated Health Plans in Washington, D.C.

Ken is especially proud of Christ Clinic, whose board of directors he joined in 2010. The clinic started with a volunteer doctor treating uninsured low-income people one night a week at Memorial Lutheran Church. It is now supported by about 30 different Katy-area churches in its Kingsland Boulevard location, where it has 10 examination rooms and a combination of paid and volunteer staff.

“What’s so great is that we have all these churches coming together to grow this ministry of providing health care for the low income. It’s a fabulous organization that has just blossomed,” Ken said.

“Ken does a lot of hard work at the state and federal level to advocate for the underinsured,” Tracy said. “I’m really proud of him.” She is the corporate community relations manager for CenterPoint Energy and leads the efforts to ensure that children and families are safe around electricity and natural gas. Additionally, employees are involved in Junior Achievement and promoting literacy skills. Tracy also represents CenterPoint on education committees at the Greater Houston Partnership and the United Way of Southeast Texas.

“I love my job – it’s my dream job,” Tracy said. “We’re both lucky professionally that we have impactful work that we really look forward to.”

Ken’s work and volunteer activities revolve around social justice. His involvement in the health insurance industry for many years gave him insight into lives of people without health insurance. He became very interested in the challenges of not only how health insurance relates to low income but generally how society can give people a hand-up out of poverty.

When Ken started working at Prudential Health Care, a number of his bosses inspired him with their emphasis on community service. “I was very fortunate to work for Prudential for 22 years. It was very much a company that asked ‘What are you doing besides work?’ I got involved with the United Way and being a blood donor every quarter.” He later worked for Humana where he continued to have experiences that further drove him down his current path. “I’m in this fabulous situation now where my work and my passion for giving back so much run together that it’s hard to keep separate what’s work and what’s volunteer,” he said.

While it might seem there has been great continuity in their lives spent in the Katy area, Ken’s job in the 1980s with Prudential took them to Memphis, New Jersey and to Philadelphia, where they lived for 10 of the 13 years they were away from Texas. They returned to Katy in 1996.

“We made some incredible friends in all those places, usually through our faith community. I feel blessed that we got to have that experience,” Tracy said. Their son was born in New Jersey and their daughter in Pennsylvania.

Tracy feels that their children, who were 12 and 10 when they came back, benefited from attending Katy ISD schools. For one, they experienced greater diversity, including knowing students who were even more worldly than they were. “One of the things that makes us so proud is that both of our children in their first semester of college recognized the education they had gotten in Katy ISD was really exceptional,” she said.

Tracy began volunteering for Katy ISD once they moved back and was named volunteer of the year for three different schools. One of her favorite experiences was serving on the bond committee that worked to include performing arts centers for the first four high schools that didn’t have them. Afterwards, she was on the design committee for the four facilities. “It was really volunteer heaven,” Tracy said.

Ken has been part of the Katy ISD Education Foundation for its six years, serving on its board. It has raised $1 million in that time. Ken is particularly passionate about grants that have been awarded to teachers at Title I schools. He can relate, coming from a family that struggled when he was young.

A large part of what sustains the Jandas is their religious faith. They joined with a new Catholic church in the Katy area, Saint Faustina Catholic Church, about three years ago after being an active part of Epiphany of the Lord for 17 years.

“It’s a wonderful experience that we never had before – every other place we lived, the Catholic churches were well established,” Tracy said. They have reunited with some other empty nesters and are meeting families that are new to the area. They both appreciate that a fair number of young people are interested in community service, possibly because schools are encouraging service learning.

While the Jandas have their work and volunteerism, they also find time for their other passions: baseball and Broadway. They are diehard Astros fans, are season ticket holders to TUTS and Broadway Across America, and occasionally enjoy something more eclectic such as SPA and different dance performances. They are also patrons of local artists and have furniture made by Dave Marsh and artwork by Taft McWhorter in their home.

The Jandas can see tangible results of all of their career-related and charitable efforts in the areas of education, religion, health clinics and health insurance for low-income people.

“Obviously we’re really proud of what we’ve done, but I always see what more could be done if we could find even more volunteers, raise more money,” Ken said. While Katy is known for being affluent, it is a diverse community both economically as well as ethnically. He feels the area can only be successful in the future by educating students from low-income families so they can rise out of poverty.

“There are needy people in Katy, and we really try to share that knowledge with people in the larger community,” Tracy said.

Coming from a small town leads people to desire a feeling of community. Growing up in Bellville, both Ken and Tracy learned from their busy, involved parents that it’s natural to go to work, board meetings and volunteer activities.

As Tracy said, “It’s part of being in a small town – you give to the community. You learn that giving back is the natural part of the day. We see the same spirit in Katy – there are a lot of people who give a whole lot of time, talent and treasure.

“I think there’s no greater high than giving back and being involved in trying to make a difference.”

Ken and Tracy at the 2017 Katy Chamber of Commerce gala. photo - Debi Beauregard

Ken and Tracy at the 2017 Katy Chamber of Commerce gala. photo – Debi Beauregard

 


Category: People & Places in KATY

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