Valerie Nicholson-Watson named new Harvesters president & CEO

Kansas City, Mo. -- The board of directors of Harvesters—The Community Food Network is pleased to announce that, following a national search, Valerie Nicholson-Watson will join the food bank on July 1, 2013, as its president and CEO. Nicholson-Watson is currently president and CEO of the Niles Home for Children in Kansas City, Mo., and has been a member of Harvesters’ board of directors since 2007. “After a long and diligent search, Harvesters’ board is delighted that our choice to lead Harvesters into the future is someone who has the experience, skills and a personal commitment to helping those in need and feeding hungry people,” said Gail Meriweather, chair, Harvesters’ board of directors. Nicholson-Watson has been a leader in the local nonprofit community since 1999. Prior to assuming her current position at the Niles Home, she was Harvesters’ director of community services. She also has held communications positions at Gateway, Inc., and the Kansas City, Mo., School District and worked as a journalist for the Kansas City Globe and The Kansas City Call.
“These are challenging times for food banks, and Harvesters cannot achieve our goals without the support of everyone in our community,” said Meriweather. “Valerie is a strategic thinker with the experience and expertise to communicate our vision and build the strong relationships Harvesters must have to acquire and distribute the millions of pounds of food necessary to feed our hungry neighbors.” Nicholson-Watson becomes the fourth person to lead Harvesters, the regional Feeding America food bank, which serves a 26-county area of northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas. During 2012, Harvesters distributed 43 million pounds of food through its network of more than 620 nonprofit agencies, including food pantries, kitchens and shelters. In 2011, Harvesters was named Feeding America’s Food Bank of the Year.
A seven-member search committee of Harvesters’ board of directors conducted a nine-month national search to fill the position. Nearly 100 applicants were narrowed to a small group of finalists based on key success factors, including executive and relationship management, strategic thinking and communications skills. Nicholson-Watson has a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and an MBA from Webster University. She lives in Lee’s Summit, Mo., with her husband, Mark Watson. They have two sons and are the proud grandparents of three grandsons.
Nicholson-Watson succeeds Karen Haren, who last July announced her plans to retire as Harvesters’ president and CEO on June 30, 2013. Haren has been involved in hunger relief for 27 years and has led the food bank since 1999.

About Harvesters—The Community Food Network Harvesters is the regional food bank serving a 26-county area of northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas and was Feeding America’s 2011 Food Bank of the Year. Harvesters provides food and related household products to more than 620 not-for-profit agencies including emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, children’s homes and others. Agencies in Harvesters’ network provide food assistance to as many as 66,000 different people each week. Harvesters, which was founded in 1979, is a certified member of Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, serving all 50 states. For more information, visit www.harvesters.org.

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