Building Great Places to Work

March 27. 2015

Winner Spotlight Series: Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank

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March 27. 2015

Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank: Giving Food a Purpose in the Community 

The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank has been serving its community for the last 32 years. Its mission is simple but powerful, "Feed People, Fight Hunger."

When you walk into the Akron-Canton Foodbank, you can't help but feel overcome with happiness as the volunteers are cheerfully packing lunches for after-school programs, and employees are greeting you with a smile. These are just some of the reasons the Foodbank is a NorthCoast 99 winner and a great representation of what it means to be a great workplace in Northeast Ohio.

Winning NorthCoast 99

"I have a great deal of pride for the non-profit sector and the spirit of non-profits," says Dan Flowers, CEO of the Akron-Canton Foodbank. "So this award to me is for the whole non-profit sector. It says 'don't forget about your people, take risks, and try to get everyone to say yes more than no, and meet them more than half-way.' And when you do that and build a strong culture where really talented people  stay and do the work, you will apply triple to your mission."

The community drives the mission

Throughout the year, the Akron-Canton Foodbank hosts different campaigns. All of these campaigns add significant value to the organization's mission, specifically one happening right now, Harvest for Hunger. This initiative focuses solely on providing families free food within the Akron community.

"This campaign is a collaborative effort with our four local Foodbanks; spanning over 21 counties," says Stephanie Knori, campaigns coordinator. "It's really a great opportunity for different individuals and local businesses to support their local Foodbank by hosting a food and fun drive or going to a local retail partner and participating in checkout hunger."

The Foodbank also has a hunger-free family campaign, providing meals to families during the holidays.

"So often when the holidays arrive, we become increasingly aware that temperatures are changing and we really want to give back to those people who may need to choose between paying for increased heating bills and feeding their family," says Knori.

The Foodbank also does additional events, such as a polar bear plunge, where employees and donors plunge into the Portage Lakes to raise awareness and money for families. This past year, the Foodbank raised over 400,000 meals for the Akron community.

Programs mean progress in the community

The Akron-Canton Foodbank supports a variety of programs throughout the community.

"We have our direct distributions where we drop off anywhere from 11-20 pounds of food for free to our member agencies and they then distribute the food directly to the community," says Adrienne Bradley, manager of programs. "We also have a feeding kids program, which we support backpack programs, youth programs, as well as an afterschool partnership with the summit county libraries."

The Foodbank also supports afterschool snacks for students as well. Since the Foodbank is a distribution site, it doesn't work with clients directly. Investing in these programs is its way of giving back and making sure people and families are being fed at a reduced rate.

The culture makes the company

"The Foodbank is definitely a diamond here in the Akron area. It's a superior organization and we all understands that we are here to work for the community on behalf of those who may not have a voice to advocate for themselves. We want to better people's circumstances and provide food for their families," says Knori. "Everyone here is a part of the Foodbank family. We all understand that no matter what department we are a part of, each one of us plays a key role in fulfilling that mission and to help feed our neighbors."

It's very evident after talking with employees at the Foodbank that they truly love not only their job but the people they work with as well.

"We are all family and we need to help support each other, and it's definitely a community here were we are applauding each other's successes and lifting each other up. I think when you have people who are genuinely happy, and come in with a sense of purpose to make a difference every day, it's something that is special about the Foodbank," says Knori.

But to have a successful culture, the environment has to be collaborative as well.

"It's all about relational congruity, which is a commitment to one another and commitment to a team. You can't have an ego here. We all collaborate, we are all friends and support each other, we say sorry and issue forgiveness. Those are the things that make this culture work," says Flowers.

Leadership

When asked, every employee raved about the leadership at the Akron-Canton Foodbank and credits the leadership as to why the Foodbank is a success.

"Our leaders and supervisors really support us daily. Not only do they care about our well being but they also do simple things like personally ask us how our day is," says James Mashburn, order selector.

There is also a traveling employee of the month trophy that leaders and co-workers vote on month to month. At the end of every year, leaders and employees vote on an employee of the year and get their name engraved on the trophy.

"Our mission is to feed people and fight hunger and that is the backbone of everything we do here, " says Renaye Brauning, finance manager. "We have 100% commitment from our board and our leadership and staff to fulfill that mission."

With its mission to feed people and fight hunger, an energetic and collaborative staff and excellent leadership guidance, it's no wonder the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank is one of the top 99 workplaces in Northeast Ohio.

"When you come in to work and feel like the work you're doing is so purposeful, there's never a time when you don't feel like you don't have something to do because hunger never sleeps, it's always something that needs to be addressed," says Knori. 

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