Rich didn’t intend to venture into the nonprofit world when he graduated college in the early 90s. He planned to teach school, but after a few tries, he realized teaching wasn’t for him. Instead, he got into construction, which eventually led him to a job weatherizing a Community Action Program building.
He loved his experience with that program, and it gave him a taste for nonprofit work. So when the construction business closed, he applied for a job as Feeding America West Michigan’s Benton Harbor Branch Manager. He’s been in the position now for 19 years.
“I like that we’re helping,” he said. “I’m doing good for the community instead of just doing it for my own salary.”
In his years managing our Benton Harbor branch, Rich has seen a lot of growth and change. When he started, the branch distributed one million pounds of food a year. This past year, they distributed three million.
Our Benton Harbor branch acts as a hub for our agency partners located in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties. Agency partners such as traditional pantries or meal programs are able to pick up food they need from that warehouse — much closer than driving all the way to Comstock Park. The location also has its own two trucks used to pick up donations and bring an abundance of food to Mobile Food Pantry sites in the community.
Rich started in a 5,000 square foot building. Now, they’re in a building four times as large. Until recently, he had to do some strategic maneuvering when it came to storing frozen product. His branch’s small freezer didn’t hold much, and he often had to send frozen donations up to Comstock Park.
Recent support from Feeding America enabled Rich to purchase a new freezer — a much larger unit sitting just outside the warehouse.
“Now I can store a lot more,” he said.
As one of our longest tenured employees, Rich has been a significant force at the food bank. His hard work constantly ensures neighbors in the southwest part of our service area can access enough food for their families.