Karen Belcher on Leadership: Be Inquisitive, Listen to Understand, Show Humility

Posted on July 5, 2021

The Food Bank of Central New York started in 1985 and now serves 11 counties in Central and Northern New York. Karen Belcher joined the Food Bank in 2001 as controller, overseeing the finances. She succeeded Kathleen Stress as executive director in January 2020, just in time for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Until then, Belcher said the Food Bank served 13-14 million meals annually. The pandemic pushed that to more than 20 million a year.

The Food Bank is a non-profit organization. It buys food and also relies on the generosity of grocers, food manufacturers, and growers. The Food Bank rarely distributes food directly to people. Instead, from a 74,000-square-foot warehouse in the town of Van Buren, the Food Bank distributes to 381 programs – dozens of food pantries, soup kitchens, community organizations and the like.

The Food Bank is known for logistical agility and for frugality in stretching resources. It was a finalist in the CenterState CEO awards for 2021 Business of the Year in the nonprofit category. Belcher leads a staff of 63, who negotiate purchases, gather donations, and distribute food. About 15,000 regular donors help to make that possible on a budget of about $12 million.

So do volunteers: “The desire to help out was so huge this past year that we’ve probably increased to over a thousand-plus volunteers trying to help us at any day that they can,” Belcher said. “Our volunteer opportunities get posted and they’re gone within hours.”

When it comes to leadership, Belcher advises that good leaders are inquisitive, listen to understand, show humility, and are kind.

Read the full article on syracuse.com, here.

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