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Next Westmoreland Food Bank CEO knows big need ahead

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KRIS M. DOUGLAS

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By Jennifer Reeger
Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

Kris Douglas never fully understood what the Westmoreland County Food Bank did before joining its board of directors.

“Being on the board the last three years opened my eyes to what's happening with the less fortunate in the county,” Douglas said. “I really wasn't aware of the tremendous impact this organization can make on the community.”

Douglas, 36, of North Huntingdon is looking forward to making his mark as the new chief executive officer of the food bank.

He will replace outgoing CEO Marlene Kozak, who is retiring Dec. 31 after 12 years.

Douglas, a 1994 graduate of Norwin High School and a 1998 graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in finance, has worked for the past five years as branch manager for First National Bank in South Greensburg.

He has a master's of business administration degree from Seton Hill University in Greensburg.

Douglas said when Kozak announced her plans to the board, he realized the job would be a good fit for him.

“I thought this would be something I'd really enjoy doing and something where I could make a positive impact on the community,” he said.

Douglas said he hopes to continue Kozak's work to expand the food bank's service to more people.

The organization serves nearly 15,000 people each month, though a study found at least 40,000 people in the county need assistance but are not receiving it.

“It's bittersweet to see (Kozak) leave, but I'm excited about the opportunity that lies ahead in taking it to the next level and continuing to expand,” he said.

Douglas and Kozak will work together starting Nov. 1 to ensure a smooth transition. Douglas will be “immersed in the food bank” by participating in food distributions and meeting with politicians and foundation leaders, Kozak said.

She said Douglas' financial background will be an asset for the food bank, which is getting a new leader who is young, energetic and smart.

“He's a very laid-back, easygoing kind of guy,” Kozak said. “We really work closely as a team. We support each other. Everybody wears a lot of different hats. I think he's the type of guy that will fit in really nicely here.”

Douglas knows the job won't be easy.

Cuts in federal and state funding to food banks have been made in recent years, and he knows there's little likelihood that those dollars will be restored soon.

He hopes to persuade local businesses to support the food bank through financial contributions or even volunteers.

“The way I look at it is, what's more essential than food?” Douglas said. “At the end of the day ­— food and shelter — these are the essences of survival. That's one of the things I want to drive home to the businesses and other organizations in the county.”

Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or jreeger@tribweb.com.

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