Board members of the area’s largest food bank chose someone familiar to be their next leader.
They announced Monday that local nonprofit leader Valerie Nicholson-Watson will become Harvesters’ president and CEO July 1.
That is when Karen Haren, who has led the food bank for 13 years and saw it become Feeding America’s national food bank of the year in 2011, will step down.
A national nine-month search drew 92 applicants, many of them from outside Missouri. Nicholson-Watson is the president and CEO of the Niles Home for Children in Kansas City. She has been on Harvesters’ board since 2007.
Having someone with nonprofit experience was key, said Gail Meriweather, chairwoman of Harvesters’ board. Knowledge of Harvesters, where Nicholson-Watson worked as a director of community services, was a bonus, Meriweather said.
“Valerie stood out for us,” Meriweather said. “It was like icing on the cake to have someone who had experience with Harvesters.”
Haren announced her retirement last year. The plan was for her to step down at the end of June and assist the new CEO for the next several months.
“I step into the background to support anyway I can,” Haren said. “July and August will be critical for the transition.”
Nicholson-Watson will be the fourth leader of Harvesters, a food bank that covers 26 counties. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism and has an MBA from Webster University. She and her husband, Mark Watson, live in Lee’s Summit. They have two sons and three grandsons.