Read on for 5 questions answered by our new CEO, Dan Maher, and then check back next week for Part 2 where he will answer 5 more questions.
What inspired you to build the career you have today?
Giving back to others through service was ingrained in our family by my parents. So, I suppose my first steps in this direction were a product of that upbringing. As for the reasons for getting involved specifically in food bank work, I would say there are two. The first reason is simply gratitude for the blessings that have kept me and my family from struggling with hunger and expressing that gratitude by serving others who do face hunger. The second reason is related because in a nation where we have such an abundance of resources, I could not live with myself if I didn’t do something to try to connect those in need to those resources.
What have your first 30 days been like at the FRFB?
I believe the earliest days in a new job should be a time of listening and learning, especially when you have the responsibility of leading others. So, much of my time in these early days have been spent meeting with staff and trying to engage with civic and other non-profit leaders. Those who have been at the Food Bank longer have a better understanding of the culture and the history of the food bank and I need to try to respect that before I begin setting any kind of new direction. Similarly, it’s important to know the broader community perspective, so learning from others and seeing the community and the Food Bank through their eyes will help me work with other staff to steer in the direction the community needs us to go.
What are some short-term goals you have for the food bank?
During the period of COVID impact, we have been blessed with opportunities to receive more product than normally exist due to special government programs and special grants made by generous donors. That is indeed helpful, but it also means that we have to develop more community partnerships to move the product through our pipeline faster and obtain more storage space. Trying to develop new and creative partnerships that can help the community receive this excess product, as well as finding some additional space where product can be temporarily stored until it can be distributed are the two most important short-term goals we are working on now.
Looking at long-term goals is where you can really dream…and I believe you should always dream big. Having said that, though, I will need time to work with staff, board members, and other community stakeholders to really be strategic and identify the best long-term goals. Obviously, we will want to grow our impact in the community on behalf of those who are affected by hunger, especially since the effects of COVID on our nation and community will likely extend into the long-term. We will certainly need strong infrastructure to sustain and grow our level of service. That may mean facility improvements and expansion, vehicle and staffing capacity enhancements, and innovative programming. Also, it will mean forging broader partnerships to help those facing hunger deal with the root causes of that situation. Feeding their body is an important thing, but it may not be enough if we cannot help connect them to services that help them improve their life as a whole.
Who are your personal heroes?
I am a Christian, so Jesus and faith heroes who have followed his example are always inspiring for their dedication to service and sacrifice. I admire and hope to emulate those qualities. In a more secular vein, I have always admired Abraham Lincoln for the patience and creativity he exhibited in trying to lead our nation through a crisis of unity. We seem to be at a crossroads again as a nation around the point of unity, so I hope to apply some of Lincoln’s wisdom to my approach to life.