Charity Champions: Hannan & Lisa Lis Have Helped Raise Millions for Forgotten Harvest

The duo is the recipient of the Association of Fundraising Professionals greater Detroit chapter’s Max M. Fisher Award for Outstanding Philanthropist. They were nominated by the food nonprofit.
Hannan and Lisa Lis - forgotten harvest
Hannan and Lisa Lis

Each year, the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ greater Detroit chapter honors southeastern Michigan’s most dedicated volunteers, philanthropists, and fundraising professionals with its annual awards. Hour Detroit is pleased to partner with AFP to introduce 2021’s slate of charity champions ahead of National Philanthropy Day on Nov. 21.

Back about 20 years ago, Forgotten Harvest was a fledgling nonprofit using a Jeep to rescue 1 million pounds of food annually and redistribute it around southeast Michigan. It was around then that Hannan and Lisa Lis were introduced to the organization’s mission. The couple not only became dedicated supporters but have been hugely influential in its growth and ability to make an impact, says Tim Hudson, Forgotten Harvest’s chief development officer.

“They understand the needs of our community, and they try to help where they see themselves being able to help,” Hudson says. “I just wish there were more people like Hannan and Lisa and their family. It’s as simple as that.”

Both have been active committee members, have hosted events in their home, and have spread the word about Forgotten Harvest. And they’ve helped raise millions of dollars for the organization. Hannan continues to serve on its board, where he has served as the board chair and oversaw a capital campaign that was needed to support the nonprofit’s expansion. Forgotten Harvest now rescues 50 million pounds of food annually, with a fleet of 36 refrigerated trucks. 

It’s just one example of the many ways the Lises have served others. “It’s all a part of the tradition of people in the Jewish community to make the world a better place,” Hannan says. 

They even found each other because of their Jewish community: Four decades ago, Lisa, then a student at Michigan State University from Detroit, met Hannan in Israel while they were both on a kibbutz. Lisa extended her stay — “to my mother’s dismay,” she says with a laugh. They later came to Michigan together and began building a life and a family together. Hannan became the chief operating officer of The WW Group, Weight Watchers’ largest franchise, and founded a venture fund. 

Hannan, whose parents were Holocaust survivors who settled in Israel, grew up in Haifa and never imagined he’d wind up in America. “I had never heard of Oakland County,” he says. 

But together, they became a tremendous force for good in southeast Michigan, pouring their support into many local nonprofits, including the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, City Year Detroit, Tamarack Camps, and Forgotten Harvest. Lisa helped launch the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Detroit and currently serves on the board of the Detroit Zoological Society. “We love to promote Detroit and Michigan and our community,” Lisa says. 

Hannan has also served with Detroit Public Television for more than a decade, and he recently stepped down as the DPTV chair, after having led a capital campaign and helped launch the Michigan Learning Channel this year to increase students’ access to educational programming across the state. He’s interested in not only improving lives but bettering the country through his work with DPTV. “Media has to unite people. It has to give people access to information and be informative and be helpful, rather than create division and fear,” he says. “I am hopeful that DPTV is advancing the cause of democracy.”  

Hannan speaks highly of democracy, civil servants, Midwestern kindness, and his adopted hometown of Detroit and the resiliency of its residents. He and Lisa try to look for organizations and grassroots efforts that “create a better journey for our community,” Lisa says. There’s a lot still to be done in the city, but they are optimistic and committed to serving. “We just continue to do as much as we can,” Lisa says. 

This story is part of our Give Detroit package and is featured in the November 2021 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition.