In March, Zimmermann, 52, took over the helm of Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen in San Jose. The 35-year-old organization serves more than 2,760 hot meals every week with the help of a dedicated staff and a cadre of hardworking volunteers. Zimmermann’s new position as executive director is her first foray into the world of nonprofit management. From the get-go, the Loaves & Fishes board of directors made its expectations clear. Zimmermann’s charge was to lead the staff and volunteers in creating a groundbreaking social enterprise, one that combines traditional nonprofit values with business savvy, modern technology and partnerships. The goal was to develop an efficient operation with a bottom line of feeding as many people as possible. “The need is certainly greater and greater,” says the new director. She points to a recent National Low Income Housing Coalition report that shows 53 percent of San Jose’s residents can’t afford to live in the city. “It’s really remarkable.” According to board President Robert A child at St. Maria Goretti in San Jose is ready for dinner. Right and page 46: Corporate volunteers are set to serve food at Eastside Neighborhood Center. 48 South Bay Accent DiNapoli, board members are not interested in Loaves & Fishes being “just another nonprofit agency.” Instead, agency leaders want to explore as many resources as possible while modernizing the way food is transported, stored and prepared. Already, under the guidance of Zimmermann, new partnerships with other agencies are being forged, technology is in development to reach more guests and plans to make the agency more self-sufficient are in the works. “Now looking back, I think we picked the right candidate, because it’s an entrepreneurial, enterprising strategy that is needed,” says DiNapoli. That she faces a delicate and difficult balancing act is not lost on Zimmermann. She understands she’s leading Loaves & Fishes toward a new vision—while navigating untested waters herself. But those who know her say if anyone can do it, she can. “She has a passion for the issue but knows what she doesn’t know,” says Eileen Richardson, executive director of Downtown Streets Team and a former colleague who also left the business world for nonprofits. “When you come into an existing agency, you have to listen a lot, and she listens. She’s a breath of fresh air, really.” Her listening and problem-solving skills, as well as her business background, are so far serving Zimmermann and Loaves & Fishes well. And perhaps more important, along with her administrative talents, she has a passion for feeding people—a passion that comes from a very Ffundamental and personal place. ood was central to Zimmermann’s life growing up in a big Italian family in Buffalo, New York. It was part and parcel of how the family came together each day or celebrated special occasions. Food brought joy, love and comfort when it was most needed. Yet Zimmermann remembers something else about the food from her childhood: there wasn’t always enough. Zimmermann’s new position as executive director is her first foray into the world of nonprofit management.
South Bay Accent - Dec 2014/Jan 2015
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