Taking his Father’s Lead
by Kym Byrnes
If you’ve received cancer treatment services at Carroll Hospital, taken classes at Carroll Community College, participated in Carroll Tech Council programs, benefited from veteran support services through the Community Foundation, received support through Human Service Programs or been involved with a couple dozen other organizations in Carroll County, then there’s a good chance you’ve been touched by the work of Greg Kahlert.
Greg is not a Carroll County native, he moved here in 2006, but he is no stranger to the rolling hills and cozy main streets found here. Greg spent 30 years working at Taneytown’s Evapco, and the foundation he runs — the Kahlert Foundation — funds millions of dollars in support of Carroll’s nonprofits every year. It’s difficult to measure the actual impact Greg has had on Carroll County, but it’s fair to say his work has benefitted thousands. It is because of this devotion to supporting local nonprofits and commitment to being involved in helping organizations thrive and grow beyond just writing a check that Greg Kahlert was chosen as Carroll Magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year.
For Greg Kahlert, it all comes back to family.
Greg never had to look far for a superhero. He found motivation and inspiration in his everyday life from his father, William “Bill” Kahlert. Greg describes his father as a true gentleman, a great father, a family man, an entrepreneur and very generous. Bill passed away in 2011 but he left a lasting mark on the Carroll community, and that legacy is carried on by Greg through the Kahlert Foundation.
“My superhero has always been my father. He was an amazing husband, father, and he was known as a true gentleman,” Greg said. “I wish more people knew him as he was so inspirational.”
Greg spent most of his career working at Evapco, which his father co-founded in 1976. Now an international HVAC/refrigeration company with 17 plants worldwide, Evapco employs more than 500 people in its Taneytown facility, and Greg says he is confident the company employs the best of the best in the industry. Greg’s business acuity and strong people skills were honed while working in sales at the company, and those skills have transferred to the business of running an active foundation.
Bill Kahlert founded the Kahlert Foundation in 1991 to help those in the community who needed it most. The organization has grown over the years and today grants millions of dollars to local nonprofits for a host of initiatives including health care, youth programs, education, veteran support and human services.
“Dad was very philanthropic and very generous his entire life. The foundation provided an opportunity for us to work together and spend more time together, it was a great opportunity to learn from him and see his work,” Greg said. He noted that he has a lot of good memories working with his dad to get the foundation up and running and now he is making new memories, working with his children, who are part of the philanthropic endeavors.
Greg is the president of the foundation, and since retiring from Evapco in 2012, running the organization consumes much of his energy. Greg’s daughter Heather, who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, and his son Scott, who is in management at Evapco, both serve as vice presidents on the foundation’s board of directors.
“Greg exemplifies the very best of our community,” Ellen Finnerty Myers, vice president of corporate development and chief development officer at Carroll Hospital, said. “His passion is contagious. His dedication is unmatched and his love for community and family is inspiring.”
Finnerty Myers said that Bill Kahlert was a supporter of Carroll Hospice, which led to Greg visiting the facilities to learn more about its programs and services. Over the last decade, Greg has become increasingly involved in supporting Carroll Hospital initiatives.
“Greg and [his wife] Roberta and the Kahlert Foundation have been tremendous supporters of Carroll Hospital, Carroll Hospice, our local community in addition to nonprofits across Maryland and Utah,” Finnerty Myers said.
In 2012, the Kahlerts made a commitment of $5 million to establish the William E. Kahlert Regional Cancer Center at Carroll Hospital, which has since provided care for thousands of patients in their journey to fight cancer. According to Finnerty Myers, the Kahlert Foundation was also the catalyst for the new Couplet Care program and a major renovation of the Family Birthplace and, most recently, took a lead role in propelling the Carroll Hospice fundraising initiative to expand the Dove House inpatient center from eight to 14 beds.
Dr. Flavio Kruter, medical director of the Kahlert Cancer Center, said that for Greg, supporting a cause is more than just making a financial donation.
“For him, it’s not just a donation for a machine, he embraces the whole concept,” Kruter said. “He considers the people we’ll need, the kind of equipment we’ll need and the different components of providing good cancer care, from when people walk in the door to the moment they are sitting in an infusion room — the kind of care they get from beginning to end.”
Greg said he is proud of the partnership the foundation has developed with the hospital.
“The opening of the William E. Kahlert Cancer Center at Carroll Hospital has been one of our largest and most impactful grants,” he said. “Opportunities for large, life-changing grants do not come along very often, but we are always on the lookout for others and hope to find a few more in the years to come.”
Greg said that last year the foundation received more than 200 grant requests for the mid-Atlantic region and was able to fund 120 of them, one-third of which were grants for Carroll County nonprofits or that directly benefit Carroll County residents. The grants to Carroll County nonprofits alone totaled several million dollars.
“I’ve been blessed with a good life, but not everyone will have the opportunities I had,” Greg said. “So the foundation gives us an opportunity to give back to the community, to help benefit the well-being of the citizens in our area, and of course it’s very rewarding.”
As impressive as his impact has been on the physical health and well-being of the Carroll County community, supporting educational initiatives is also a primary focus of the foundation. Carroll Community College President Jim Ball said that Greg has directly impacted students and that his contributions will continue to touch lives for years to come.
“Simply put, Carroll Community College would not be where we are today were it not for Greg Kahlert’s willingness to generously help us further our impact in our community,” Ball said. “Greg’s commitment to helping students achieve their dreams has been truly remarkable.”
Greg’s support has helped the college develop and launch the STEM Scholars Honors Cohort program as well as equip high-tech STEM-related learning initiatives such as the Digital Design and Fabrication Program. He also provided design and equipment needs for the Research and Collaboration Lab space, and he supported the launch and development of the college’s budding athletics program.
For Greg, running the foundation does not mean sitting behind a desk taking a few phone calls and signing the occasional batch of checks. He spends time meeting with grantees, attending nonprofit meetings and fundraisers, working with accountants and attorneys, and putting in the time to help nonprofits grow.
“I believe that I am in a unique position to help nonprofits more than just financially,” Greg said. “We deal with so many professional, well-run organizations and are in a position to share best practices regarding fundraising, events, networking, etc.”
Additionally, he serves on several committees and volunteers at the Maryland Food Bank and Carroll County Food Sunday.
He’s quick to point out that he is not a one-man operation. He said that he could not accomplish as much as he does locally without the support of several people, including the foundation’s board members and administrative assistant Sandy Sidlovsky, who keeps track of their online grant management system and the correspondence, requests, meetings and evaluations that come with supporting more than 100 nonprofits a year.
Easy-going and eager to talk about the many different nonprofits he works with, it was the Boys and Girls Club that left a smile lingering on his face as he reflected on the success and growth of the organization.
Greg noted that the Boys and Girls Club in Westminster recently moved to a new and larger facility and just this fall opened a new gymnasium. He said they have gone from serving 110 kids to 500, and they continue to grow. With a nod and a smile, Greg said “the Boys and Girls Club is changing the lives of our children in a very positive way.”
Boys and Girls Club executive director Bonnie Meshulam said that Greg was an important piece of the puzzle when it came to expanding the organization.
“He is a capacity builder, he sees the potential growth of an organization’s service to others and assists in helping them find alternate ways to grow their funding base while expanding,” Meshulam said. “He helps nonprofits think like a business and organize themselves accordingly so they don’t become extinct.”
It sounds like a pretty good gig — attending black-tie fundraisers and giving away millions of dollars to organizations that are doing great things every day. But there are challenges for the president of a foundation, including having to say no.
“We have to make tough decisions,” Greg said of the foundation staff and board of directors. “We have more requests than we could ever hope to fund, so we have to make decisions as to who receives grants and for how much. The hard part is having to say no to certain organizations.”
While working in sales at Evapco, Greg said, the answer to a customer was always “yes,” so having to say no to philanthropic requests is particularly challenging for him. As thrilling as it is to make phone calls to inform organizations that they will be receiving grant support from the Kahlert Foundation, Greg also makes personal phone calls to inform organizations that they will not receive funding in that particular cycle. Admitting he has a generally upbeat and positive outlook, Greg says he makes those calls with hopes that he’ll be able to say yes to them sometime in the future.
Often by his side at events and in doing the foundation’s work is Roberta Kahlert, Greg’s wife of 37 years. Greg’s family moved to Maryland from Wisconsin when he was 3 years old and he spent much of his childhood living in Howard County. Roberta grew up in Baltimore City and eventually moved to Howard County. The two met at a bowling alley and never looked back. They raised their two children in Howard County and when the kids flew the coop, Greg and Roberta moved to southern Carroll County.
Roberta describes Greg as a very positive person who treats people with grace and compassion. She says he is special, but acknowledges with a chuckle that she is biased.
“I don’t know a person who works harder than he does,” Roberta said. “He retired when he was 60 and he works harder in retirement, and it’s work done with love. He is a good person and very genuine.”
And because he believes in the motto “work hard, play hard,” Greg and Roberta play hard, too. Greg played competitive tennis for the United States Tennis Association for 40 years, but his new challenge is golf. He is working towards a single-digit handicap. The duo also loves to travel — in the last year they spent time in Spain, Costa Rica, Florida and the southern Caribbean, as well as in Salt Lake City visiting their daughter Heather and her three children.
For Greg, it all comes back to family. He followed in his father’s footsteps, and his own son is now following suit. Scott Kahlert is the corporate quality manager at Evapco, and he sits on the board of the Kahlert Foundation. He believes his father’s initial motivation to help people was driven by his desire to carry on his dad’s legacy. But he also believes that in doing the work, motivations have evolved.
“I think carrying on his dad’s legacy still motivates him, but I think working with so many great organizations and seeing all the good they do, along with the joy of helping others, has become his main drive,” Scott said.
Scott said he’s learned a lot from his dad over the years — work hard, be prepared, have a plan — but he said the biggest takeaway from working with his dad is that you can have fun while doing all of those things.
Greg said that in addition to improving his golf game, his plan is to continue growing the foundation.
“In 10 years, I am hopeful the foundation will be bigger and better than ever. We have no plans of slowing down.”