Women of Influence: Alabama Ronald McDonald House CEO Katherine Billmeier

Katherine Estes Billmeier
Katherine Estes Billmeier and Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham provide a comfortable place to stay for families of children being treated in area hospitals. [Photo Credit: Karim Shamsi-Basha/Alabama NewsCenter]

Few women in the world have had as much of an impact on their city’s space as Katherine Billmeier.

A member of the Birmingham, Ala. community since birth, Billmeier graduated from Mountain Brook High School and attended Mount Vernon College, now under the name George Washington University in Washington D.C., earning her bachelors degree in Arts & Humanities in 1987. She then pursued and earned a post-graduate certificate in fine and decorative art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London.

Although her background is in art, Billmeier found her true passion in the non-profit sector; serving for nearly two decades in non-profits in Birmingham — literally shaping her community along the way.

She began serving as the Executive Director of Birmingham’s Vulcan Park in 2000 during the icon’s $20 million capital campaign to restore the Vulcan statue and the park surrounding it. She also co-edited the Vulcan Park: Celebrating 100 years of Birmingham’s Colossal Icon book.

She left the park in 2004, and began her work with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama (RMHCA) where she served as Capital Campaign Counsel before the $7.5 million house was completed in 2007. In 2008, she became a Board member serving until January of 2012 when the non-profit named her Executive Director.

“What we do is provide a home away from home for families whose children are being treated at area hospitals. It’s so much more, though. Our families find other voices and other bodies going through similar situations. They’re able to lean on each other, support each other, pray with each other and help each other,” Billmeier told the Alabama Newscenter.

“We achieve our mission by providing a fabulous room for families to sleep in, and just being there with a smile and hug,” Billmeier continued. “Our families come from all over the state of Alabama, and the world, actually. Children’s of Alabama is the third-largest children’s hospital in the nation and continues to grow, and we will continue to grow to meet that need.”

RMHCA’s first CEO leads around town

Billmier demonstrated so much passion, and achieved so much success at the RMHCA, they named her their first ever Chief Executive Officer in February of 2016 where she still serves today.

But her involvement in her community doesn’t stop there. Throughout her time at the RMHCA, Billmier served as a non-profit consultant to several other groups, specializing in development and project management.

She was responsible for the board development and project management of the $16.5 million Railroad Park. Completed in 2010, the park has become an award-winning staple and hub of activity in the Birmingham community.

“Railroad Park has become and indeed exceeded the reality that so many dreamed it would be,” Billmeier wrote to The Birmingham News. “City and business leaders, teachers and students, residents and designers — people with vision came together and took a risk, ignored the naysayers, and built a beautiful urban park for the long term good of the community.”

In her letter to what was then The Birmingham News, Billmeier predicted new developments along First Avenue South, an area which, since the park opened, has been revitalized and is now teeming with businesses, breweries, coffee shops, and apartment buildings.

Billmeier is a woman who knows how to grow and develop, not just families in need of support, but whole communities.

For her service to Alabama families dealing with their children’s health issues, her astounding work to revitalize critical Birmingham parks and neighborhoods Katherine Billmeier is absolutely an Alabama woman of influence.