Neill to step down as Tri-Cities Food Bank leader

Tri-City HeraldApril 23, 2014 

Wish Food Bank.jpg

John Neill, executive director of the Tri-Cities Food Bank, stands in the work area of the agency's Richland location where volunteers put together items for clients. Neill announced he's stepping down as executive director of the nonprofit.

TRI-CITY HERALD FILE

John Neill is stepping down as executive director of the Tri-Cities Food Bank after leading the nonprofit through a period of transformation as it dramatically increased the amount of food it provides and the number of clients it serves.

“It’s been a wonderful experience, dealing with not only the clients but the volunteers,” Neill said. “It’s been an absolute pleasure for me to do it. I’ve really enjoyed my tenure. It’s been very fulfilling to know you’re helping people that need help.”

But he said the executive director role, which he’s filled as a volunteer, has become more involved and time consuming as the operation has grown, and it seemed the right time to step away and try something new.

Neill is joining the Richland-based Fields of Grace gleaning ministry as its volunteer executive director.

Neill’s last official day with the food bank is Friday, although he plans to help with the transition to a new executive director.

The food bank is accepting applications for the post. Those who are interested should e-mail VJ Meadows, food bank board president, at vmeadows0383@charter.net.

Meadows said Neill has made a mark on the organization and leaves big shoes to fill.

“What’s next is to find someone who can build on what he has done. Each executive director has taken the organization to the next level,” Meadows said, adding that “we feel very blessed to have had (Neill) here, representing the food bank.”

Neill, 66, retired from the banking world in 2008 and became a food bank volunteer the following year.

He soon moved to the executive director post. “Promotions come really fast when you don’t get paid,” he told the Herald with a laugh.

When he started with the food bank — which has locations in Kennewick, Richland and Benton City — it logged about $1 million in annual revenue, including food donations.

The annual total now is approaching to $4 million, Neill told the Herald.

The nonprofit also is distributing at least twice as much food and serving at least twice as many clients. It gives out 20 tons of food a week.

During the busy winter holiday season, it helps at least 100 families each at the Kennewick and Richland sites per day of operation, and between 70 and 80 at the Benton City location.

The Kennewick food bank location was expanded during Neill’s tenure.

Neill also holds several other local volunteer roles, from serving on The Children’s Reading Foundation of the Mid-Columbia board to helping oversee the Kennewick Public Facilities District as a board member.

Fields of Grace officials posted about Neill’s new role on the program’s website, saying, “John brings a wealth of experience to Fields of Grace and we look forward to ways that he will grow our organization. The board of Fields of Grace and its volunteers welcome John and look forward to working with him.”

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