Deborah Tuck is faced with the task of helping feed the tens of thousands of low-income Coloradans who depend upon the Care and Share Food Bank for sustenance.
Recently named CEO of Care and Share of Southern Colorado, Tuck came to Colorado Springs from Flagstaff, Ariz. where she spent 10 years as the founding president and CEO of the Grand Canyon National Park Foundation.
Previously, she had served as the executive director of two family foundations: the Ruth Mott fund, based in Flint, Michigan and the Needmor fund of Toledo, Ohio.
Tuck’s arrival in Colorado Springs was not without drama.
A few days before leaving Flagstaff, she tripped over her Airedale, Coltrane, and broke her kneecap. Complications ensued, and she spent three months in her new position as a “temporarily disabled individual.”
Tuck talked with CSBJ earlier this week.
Tell us about the challenges and opportunities of your new job.
The challenge in southern Colorado, whether in Colorado Springs or the rural areas that we deal with — Utah in the west, to Kansas in the east and south to the New Mexico border — is the increase in hunger. It’s not only people who don’t have jobs, although that’s increasing. It’s that people don’t earn enough in the jobs they have to get them out of poverty. Forty percent of the families we serve have at least one working adult bringing in money on a weekly or monthly basis. One in four are children. Most people don’t believe that. When they think about hunger, they’ll think about the homeless, the people down by the river.
The hunger statistics are incredible. In June of 2008 we had distributed 11 million pounds of food (during the previous year), in June of 2009 14.5 million, and this June we will have distributed 18.5-19 million.
Where do you get the food that Care and Share distributes?
We get food from a whole variety of sources. We get food from USDA, we get food that we buy from Feeding America, a program that we belong to, and we run lots and lots of events. High school students have a wonderful competition that they run around Thanksgiving. In the spring, the letter carriers help us out with an annual drive. The Boy Scouts do an annual drive. And sometimes it’s as small as a donation box in a business. We get support from foundations, individuals, government agencies and from corporations.
How do you plan to build on and increase your levels of support?
We need to be as creative as we can be with our fundraising and food donation drives. We’re planning to partner with the arts community in a drive this summer. We’re also hoping to raise awareness of summer hunger in the community, which is an enormous problem. People tend to give between Nov. 1 and Jan. 1, and yet needs are often greatest in the summer.
What motivated you to come here to Colorado Springs and to Care & Share?
When you’re at certain points in your career, what you do next is really, really important. What was important to me in my next job, given where this country was going, was to stand with the people who had the least in society and to make their lives stronger and more viable, and Care and Share does that.
Our city has become somewhat controversial. As a recent arrival to the community, what’s your take?
In this community, no matter who you are politically, or what your beliefs are there’s a commonality of incredible personal kindness and generosity. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen it so starkly. I entered this community as a temporarily disabled person, and it was a great way to get to know this town. I’ve never seen such kindness extended to an absolute stranger. I think this is born out when we look at the individual supporters of Care and Share. We have a direct mail program run by an organization that does the same work for 14 other food agencies. We’re the only one that hasn’t seen support drop enormously in the last year. In fact, ours has increased.
What did you imagine yourself doing 25 years ago?
What did I imagine myself doing? I’m not sure what I thought I was going to do, except that I was determined to have a life filled with grand adventure.
And have you?
Audio excerpt of the interview with Deborah Tuck.