By Erica Boniface
We had a good chuckle when we recently checked in with 2010 Livingston Fellow, Erin Pulling. The new CEO of Food Bank for the Rockies recently had an encounter with one of her kids that was all too relatable in the world of parenting.
As she explains in the interview below, her kids are active members in the philanthropic community – but that doesn’t make Erin immune to hearing at least once that “She’s the worst mom ever!” We feel you, Erin. We’ve all been there.
But in all seriousness, we decided to chat with Erin about her recent transition from Project Angel Heart to Food Bank of the Rockies – and see what big plans she has for the new year. She also left us with great advice and encouragement for new and upcoming Livingston Fellows.
Bonfils-Stanton Foundation: Congratulations on your new role as CEO of Food Bank of the Rockies! Tell us more about your new chapter and what you’re most excited about.
Erin Pulling: I am excited about so many aspects of my new role. I am passionate about food and nutrition. And I am passionate about building organizational excellence. Food security is at the core of, or touches on, so many other issues such as health outcomes, educational attainment, housing, and employment. Food Bank of the Rockies is well positioned to become a leading organization that leverages its size and resources to build system wide capacity in the field of hunger and food security. Our strength is in our collaborative model and I am looking forward to learning how we can increase our impact through the power of our community.
BSF: You wrote an incredibly heartwarming farewell letter before leaving your position with Project Angel Heart – tell us what you’re going to miss most about Project Angel Heart and what you’d like others to know about the organization.
EP: While Project Angel Heart’s mission of home-delivered, medically tailored meals will always be close to my heart, it is the people who I will miss the very most. A great team of staff and board who are firing on all cylinders, challenging one another to be their best, continually striving for excellence, and effectively engaging a community of donors and volunteers is a rare occurrence. I am proud to have been part of such a stellar team and have every confidence in their ability to continue the type of unprecedented successes that have become commonplace for this organization that evolved from a grassroots food service provider into an expert in the field of food as medicine. I will remain a volunteer and donor, and cannot wait to see what Project Angel Heart’s future holds.
BSF: You’re an incredible mom. How do you get your kids involved with helping others?
EP: Thanks for that but according to at least one of my kids on an almost daily basis, I’m actually the “worst mom ever!” We certainly don’t do a perfect job of this, but we try to make giving back part of our routine. Our three kids receive part of their allowance earmarked for philanthropic giving so they each make their own annual giving decisions. We sponsor a family for the holidays, deliver meals for Project Angel Heart, and prepare and serve brunch at The Delores Project monthly. We had recently decided that it would be our last brunch at The Delores Project because cooking for and transporting food for 50-60 people amidst busy schedules was feeling like too much. On that ‘last day’, the women stood and applauded twice and said it was the only hot breakfast they had received since we were there the month prior and that our monthly meals are among their favorites. So, that day wasn’t our last and we decided that we are in this for the long haul, busy schedules be damned.
BSF: You were selected to be a Livingston Fellow in 2010. How much did the program help grow your leadership? As you reflect, what were some takeaways for you with the program?
EP: While Bonfils-Stanton Foundation’s financial gift toward my personal and professional development was impactful and I had opportunities to take part in courses, travel, and learnings I would not have otherwise, that has not been the life changing part of the Livingston Fellowship.
The life changing components have been two-fold: The permission to prioritize myself, and the benefit of belonging to this remarkable community of fellows. As nonprofit leaders, we are generally people who are constantly looking out for, building, and prioritizing our teams. Prioritizing our own personal development is a tough shift, and it is incredibly impactful, especially when it is alongside a community of colleagues with whom we have an extraordinary and unusual community rooted in authenticity and vulnerability.
BSF: What words of advice do you give new and upcoming Fellows?
EP: You will get out of the Livingston Fellowship what you put into it. Invest your time and energy into our community of fellows and it will pay off in spades, both personally and professionally. I don’t know how I snuck into this group but they are the brightest and most innovative leaders in our community. Engage and enjoy!
BSF: What are you hoping to accomplish in 2019?
EP: While I was thinking this could be the year that I actually get into the Boston Marathon (qualifying by only 2 seconds didn’t get me in last go-round) I think that in reality, I am in maintenance mode this year. I am aiming to keep running, not to set any personal records but to maintain some semblance of sanity and make me perhaps tolerable to live with during this demanding year. I relish my early morning runs with my headlamp lighting my way, either alone or with a small and close group of women. We encourage one another and enjoy the sacred conversations that happen over the miles.
BSF: Based on your experiences during this major career change, what would you want to tell people who are contemplating such a change?
EP: Considering a major career change is terrifying, especially when walking away from something that is known and at which we excel. I spent many sleepless nights agonizing over the possibility of leaving Project Angel Heart. However, I maintained faith that my direction would become clear and only focused on the very next step in the process. It certainly did become clear, it surprised me, and it felt right.
The process of considering this change and going through the interview process taught me that I know and have accomplished more than I often give myself credit for. It was, by far, the best exercise ever for my professional development. While touting personal accomplishments goes against every core of my being, I enjoyed the opportunity to imagine and explore the new team at Food Bank of the Rockies, the new “we,” and envision what we will accomplish together.