Rob Zeaske Says Goodbye
This summer I wrote to the Second Harvest Heartland community about my intention to leave this fantastic organization at the end of the year to join my family on a new adventure in Boston. As my time arrives, I wanted to share a final missive to summarize some impressions and my gratitude as our organization transitions to a new leader.
First, I want to assure you that our organization is in excellent shape for this transition. Our board has been exemplary in its diligence, integrity and urgency in finding a next generation of leadership. And our staff is loaded with the talent and commitment to move forward the many hunger-fighting initiatives that we have put in motion over the last few years. We have just completed our most impactful year ever, having helped distribute over 100 million pounds of food to partners and neighbors with a record 60 percent fresh. While certainly bringing his or her own style, our next CEO is poised for an unbelievable opportunity, with your help.
Perhaps one of my strongest emotions as I depart in this exciting time is FOMO (that’s “Fear of Missing Out” according to my kids). We can see the finish line for our capital campaign and are beginning to work on one of our biggest, most impactful investments in decades—our new facility. The new location offers so many opportunities for more and healthier food, higher efficiency to push more resources to programs, diverse and impactful volunteer engagement, a better employee experience, room to grow and innovate, and a vision to collaborate in many ways with our community. We have talked about our needs and the features of this facility for years, but as we’ve gotten closer to opening, I’ve become even more excited about what this facility symbolizes for our work. We’ve referred to the facility as a table. A giant table that’s big enough and robust enough to welcome every Minnesotan to our potluck. If one in 11 Minnesotans is struggling to find food, we need ten others to bring the hot dish and Jell-O salad (my family prefers ours with carrots). Our organization and our new facility are a community good—the table that is set for and by our neighbors, with the good will and resources of our employees, volunteers, donors, partners—with those neighbors experiencing hunger as honored guests sharing in our abundance. That is where we’re headed.
I’ve often remarked that hunger is Minnesota’s largest solvable problem—and have spent much of my time at Second Harvest Heartland trying to convince our community that both parts of that statement are true. I think we’ve made significant progress in demonstrating the massive, but often hidden, issue of hunger in our state. I’m less sure I’ve made headway on helping others believe that we can solve it. So, as we build this new table of a facility and issue invitations to every neighbor to participate, I hope that we can hold on to our imagination and belief that we don’t have to tolerate hunger in our community in 2018. As ours is not a complex technical problem, it comes down to a choice that despite the resources and know-how we have collectively accepted that our own neighbors can go without. It’s my hope that we can channel the 97 percent of things that we have in common as humans (and as members of a hunger-relief community) to move a hunger-free community beyond a dream.
Finally, I just want to say thank you. Thank you to the thousands of people who have supported this opportunity for me and for our organization more broadly. It has been a privilege and an inspiration to serve with so many caring, smart people every single day who model compassion, urgency, and commitment in our cause. This has been the opportunity of a lifetime and I am grateful for every minute of my nearly eleven years. I wish you success in our common mission, joy amidst the daily challenges and fellowship from this community of compassion that will feed my own soul for years to come.