Employee Stories Colleen Townsley Brinkmann Former Chief Philanthropy Officer READ STORY Colleen Townsley Brinkmann, Former Chief Philanthropy Officer The $55 million Stop Hunger, Build Hope capital campaign in 2018 was a turning point for the North Texas Food Bank and its food distribution. In addition to the campaign chairs, there were two NTFB employees at the center of what was at the time the largest capital campaign for a social service agency in North Texas – NTFB president and CEO, the late Jan Pruitt, and Chief Philanthropy Officer, Colleen Townsley Brinkmann. For Colleen, the campaign was a culmination of the progression of her contributions at the Food Bank and her partnership with Jan. Born and raised in India and infused from an early age by her parents with the belief that all humans are equal and deserve justice, Colleen was drawn to a career in non-profit. She ultimately was connected to Jan who encouraged Colleen to tour the Food Bank and then call her. After the tour, Colleen knew it was a fit. “I immediately realized two things: One, how massive the issue of hunger was, and two, that I had to be a part of it. I knew that because of ‘who’ Jan was, she would always keep in mind those at the frontlines of hunger when making decisions. And she did.” Colleen joined the Food Bank as its director of communications in early 2002 when it was still operating out of its Cockrell Hill location and had about 35 employees. Jan had been director for 2 years and had realigned her leadership team and smoothed out operational issues. Colleen’s staff consisted of one intern. “Jan charged me with three responsibilities: the website, media, and general communications. She gave me a full berth to reinvent all the strategies and always had my back.” With a marketing staff that had grown to five and collaborative business partners, Colleen and her team created and promoted the holiday hunger awareness campaign that played a key role in building the NTFB brand. But her job was about to grow significantly. In her 5th year, Jan asked Colleen to also take on development and fundraising responsibilities. Although she had no direct experience in that area, Colleen dove into her new role, learning from her colleagues and empowering her “small, but mighty” team to seek out the opportunities in a thriving metropolis like Dallas. Over the next few years, annual fundraising at the Food Bank increased 8-12% year over year, and her team’s efforts would ultimately be recognized by Feeding America with national awards in marketing and fundraising. “Those awards belonged to more than the marketing and fundraising teams. After all, if our drivers, food sourcing associates, operations, and warehouse teams were not excelling, then there could not have been fundraising successes. It truly was an award for ALL on the NTFB team.” Colleen says achieving the ambitious goals of the Stop Hunger, Build Hope campaign was the biggest challenge of her 16-year tenure at the Food Bank. But like the rest of her time with the organization, she was motivated and emboldened not only by the campaign committee and co-workers surrounding her, but by her friend and colleague, Jan, who announced she was critically ill shortly after the campaign launched. Still, Colleen had full confidence they could achieve the $55 million goal on time. “We could do this for Jan – and for all those who faced hunger.” The successful campaign was just one of the many legacies Colleen left on the Food Bank and the organization is grateful for her continued support. As Colleen says, it was a journey filled with gratitude for her as well. “When I stepped into NTFB in February 2002, little did I know what a fulfilling journey it would be. I thank Jan Pruitt, those who shared the path with me – both paid and unpaid – and Trisha Cunningham for making a place at The Table for me.” Trisha Cunningham President & CEO READ STORY Trisha Cunningham, NTFB President & CEO Trisha Cunningham currently serves as the North Texas Food Bank’s President and CEO. Trisha found her way to NTFB after leaving corporate America, she wanted to work for an organization where she could use her skills to make a significant impact on her community. “There is nothing more significant than access to nutritious food – it is the most basic of needs. It is what will help our community thrive. Students can’t learn if they are focused on the rumble in their tummy, senior citizens and others can’t recover from health issues without proper nutrition and many can’t afford to take additional training or education that would improve their financial situation.” In addition to believing in NTFB’s mission, Trisha praises the people who make it all happen. “Our team is amazing and so committed to the mission as are those in our partner network. Our supporters are our biggest cheerleaders investing in our mission with their funding, resources, advocacy, and their time/expertise.” Before the pandemic, Trisha would have said her first year at the food bank was the most challenging. In her first year, NTFB completed a capital campaign, built a new building, hired new executive team members, and managed the first activation of the Mass Care Task Force to care for Hurricane Harvey evacuees. “None of that compares to how quickly our team members had to respond to the skyrocketing needs of the pandemic. I am so proud of how our team came together, keeping our mission at the center of what we do, to ensure our community had access to nutritious food when they needed it most.” Trisha recognizes food banking is much more complicated than it may seem on the surface. Hunger is complicated. For those who need a little extra help, life is harder to just access the basic necessities. She likes explaining to those who come to visit NTFB that the organization is a non-profit logistics company – like the ‘Federal Reserve’ of charitable food and the feeding network of partners are like the ‘branches’ that serve their community. It requires a lot of people across the food bank to manage that process, programs, and impact measurements to serve the needs. Joe Crawford Transportation READ STORY Joe Crawford Before Joe Crawford became NTFB’s transportation lead, he volunteered weekly through his Young Life organization. Joe grew up in a single-parent household and saw first-hand the struggle of providing for a family. He felt like he was making a difference through volunteering, so when a position opened in NTFB’s warehouse, he applied and started working at NTFB in July 1994. After working in the warehouse, he transferred to the transportation department where he schedules donations and deliveries. Joe’s favorite part of his job is seeing donations come in and food going out to those in need. Even with all the programs NTFB offers, there are still people facing food insecurity in North Texas. After 28 years of service at the North Texas Food Bank, Joe credits the leadership team for investing in training and classes that set staff up for success. Damaris Lawson Partner Resources READ STORY Damaris Lawson As of 2022, Damaris Lawson has been working for the North Texas Food Bank for 40% of the Food Bank’s history. In 2005, Damaris had just moved to Dallas as a single, unemployed mom, and a friend told her about a temporary job opening that she might be interested in. Despite not knowing what a Food Bank was, she aced the interview and got the job. Today, she is our Partner Resource Lead. Her 16 years of insight and relationships are a valuable asset in providing resources and solutions for our partner agencies. When Damaris began her position, the Food Bank’s partner agencies requested food and gave reports via fax machine. She helped lead the Food Bank’s efforts to digitalize the ordering and report system for partners and remembers how the Food Bank provided computers and training to agencies to facilitate the change. She says that she has remained at the Food Bank for so many years because of the variety of challenges and the sense of community in her work. “There is going to be a new challenge, something that you’re able to help provide a solution, to collaborate, to find the pieces… Plus it is a family. I feel a deep connection to these agencies because I was once that person that needed help. I was once that person that needed SNAP.” As she looks back on her 16 years of service at the Food Bank, she says that she never could have guessed how much the Food Bank’s services would grow. In the same way, she says that she hopes the Food Bank will be in an unimaginably different place in another 40 years, “I really hope the Food Bank is nonexistent. Not because we couldn’t do it, but because the job has been done.” Jan Pruitt Former President & CEO READ STORY Jan Pruitt, Former NTFB CEO Jan Pruitt served as the North Texas Food Bank’s CEO from 1997 to 2016, during which time the Food Bank grew exponentially. During her tenure, 700 million meals were distributed by the Food Bank, and in 2015, a commitment was made to distribute 92 million meals annually by 2025, an over 50% increase from 2015. In June of 2020, the Food Bank met the tremendous need caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and surpassed the goal five years early. In addition to setting the goal of 92 million meals, Jan laid the groundwork for the Food Bank to meet both the immediate and long-term hunger needs of North Texas. Under her tenure, Jan started the process of moving to the Perot Family Campus in Plano, which gave the Food Bank growing room and the ability to respond to a large-scale disaster like the COVID-19 pandemic. She also helped establish the Mass Care Task Force, which created a partnership between NTFB, the American Red Cross, VolunteerNow, and the Salvation Army to address major catastrophes. In addition to her work at the Food Bank, she found time to serve in nearly a dozen other leadership roles related to hunger-fighting. Highlights include: 2 years as Executive Director of Feeding Texas 8 months as the interim CEO of Feeding America 8 years as a member of the Feeding America board of directors including serving as board chair Jan stepped down from NTFB in 2016 to focus on her health, but she remained an active hunger fighter until she passed away in 2017. She will always be remembered at the North Texas Food Bank as an inspirational leader who believed that having enough food to eat is a basic human right. While we have named Jan’s Garden and Jan Pruitt Way in her honor, we know that her most important legacy is the nourishment and hope that her vision provided our neighbors. Vince Rhinehart Operations READ STORY Vince Rhinehart Vince started working at the North Texas Food Bank in 1995 but was introduced to NTFB in 1988 by a friend who worked in NTFB’s accounting department. Vince was drawn to the Food Bank after getting the special feeling of being a part of an organization that helps people. Vince now serves as NTFB’s Operations Team Senior Lead. He credits his 27 years of service to enjoying teaching fellow food bankers what he has learned and how nice everyone is. Vince says working at the North Texas Food Bank “feels like one big family on the same mission of fighting hunger”. As the Food Bank continues to grow, Vince hopes to continue to meet the needs of the community and serve with passion and pride. Sally Seybert Transportation READ STORY Sally Seybert When Sally Seybert joined the North Texas Food Bank as a truck driver in 1997, NTFB distributed 10 million pounds of food and debuted our first website. Today, Sally is NTFB’s distribution coordinator and worked to help distribute 125 million meals in 2020. When she first joined, she was the first female truck driver at the Food Bank. Ten years later, she made the switch to helping manage our distribution networks. When she first joined in 1997, Sally was part of our Hunger Link program, which connected restaurants and offices with excess food to partner agencies that could distribute it to neighbors in need. Today, she uses her relationships with partner agencies to ensure that they have the resources they need, when they need them. 25 Years later, Sally can still remember how she felt on her first day at our Cockrell Hill warehouse. “You know, I just knew from day one that this is where I wanted to be. You know, it's just I knew that this was going to be my last job. My goal is to work here for 25 years.” Sally will be meeting her goal this year and whatever her plans may be for the next 25 years, we wish her well!