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Up Close with Eric

March/April 2024

There is so much happening and so much amazing work going on. Where to start…

First, I want to continue to encourage you to review the Performance Highlights to get a broader picture of things going on. It is a nice summary of a lot of different projects and critical ongoing work. It doesn’t capture everything, since it really is supposed to be a summary, but it is still very impressive, and each of you are an integral part in making it happen.

Second, a massive congratulations to Lisa and the Operations team for a very successful AIB inspection. This required every other year inspection, which was delayed for a couple of years due to COVID, went very well. The work done to prepare for this inspection is significant, but more importantly, the activities done every day to make sure our warehouse operations, food handling, and safety protocols are functioning at a high level are the most vital to us all and resulted in our organization easily passing this inspection once again with an excellent score.

Here are a few selected items and reflections.

Saturday, March 23rd was a busy day across the organization. With a windy, rainy, and cold PTI Run on the Runway, it was incredible to see well over 1,300 individuals arrive to support our mission and brave the elements. From there, I drove up to Wilkes Community College where I enjoyed being with our team providing a wonderful and very meaningful community food distribution serving 425 households.

The kindness shared by those we served was very special, and the help from our Food Lion friends and supporters made it a great day. One of our visitors, David, wanted me to share a huge thank you from him for all we do – he specifically told me to let everyone at the Food Bank know how much you are appreciated. I also had a fun conversation with a teenager who was attending the food distribution with his father. They are from Nicaragua. When they can, their family sends money back to a family (not their own) in Nicaragua who is dealing with very difficult health needs – another example of how those we serve are seeking to serve others.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we selected NetSuite to be our ERP (Environmental Resource Plan) provider. This investment in our work will transform our inventory and finance system, a project that is vitally needed as we look to the future. I am committed to ensuring that you all have the support necessary to achieve a successful transition. By the time you have read this, I will have requested funds from our Board of Directors for two positions that will be focused on helping our team during the next 12 to 24 months.

 

Also, recently, Norm Gold, a long-time food banker, spent time with us to begin the process of evaluating how he can support our continued transition to our new space. I’m incredibly thankful to Lisa and the Operations team for their openness to explore new ways to receive, store, and distribute food. We have such a great team and do a good job, and, I’m all about how we can build on our past success in all areas to achieve even better results for those we serve. Moving ahead, Norm will work with our team in May and June to identify opportunities for growth and enhancement.

In addition to this visit, Dave Grossnickle and Mark Biewald from Feeding America joined us for a couple of days to review (in depth) the new network agreement that defines our relationship with Feeding America and the policies that guide our work. Dave and Mark were excellent sources of information, and I’m very thankful for so many members of our team who carved out time to visit with them to learn more about the agreement and how it may influence our work.

I want to end this message with a comment made by my cousin, Scott Hudson, who leads a company called Gallagher Bassett (GB). A few months ago, Scott texted me about taking his team to volunteer at a food bank during their next team gathering in California. I was able to connect him with our sister food bank, Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. Claudia Bonilla Keller, their CEO, was excited to host his group. He shared how special the experience was for him and his team.

“I shared this past week’s BTB [Beyond the Business] with my cousin Eric Aft, CEO at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina in Winston-Salem, NC, and he responded with the following:

"Thank you for sharing this experience and glad to hear it was so positive. Volunteers are the lifeline for all food banks - enabling us to keep our costs down and, more importantly, connecting community members with the importance of the mission as well as the reality faced by far too many residents in the areas where we all live and work.

A few weeks ago, I was doing quality control for celery stalks. And while I may have thought that my contribution to Second Harvest wasn’t enough to move the needle in a big way, I realized from Eric’s note, that if you multiply my efforts by the efforts of our global leadership team, and then multiply that by the thousands of other companies that volunteer to support the Second Harvest mission, well, you have enough small contributions to make the mission a reality.”

Scott’s reflection is something I hope you read and re-read. The spirit of his message says everything. Together, we have the power to touch the hearts and minds of others – transforming hopelessness and worry into hope and opportunity. Our work can be challenging and difficult, but we (you) are changing lives every day.

Thank you for all you do to bring our mission to life!

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