Suzan Neiger Gould won't be taking the reins as executive director of Manna on Main Street until October 1, but she already has a vision in place to continue the passion and mission of the Lansdale nonprofit.
"I've been around long enough to know when I see passionate people that really care about what they're doing and how they're doing it," Gould said. "It's very exciting to work for an organization like that."
Gould was named new executive director this week, selected as the top choice out of a pool of 13 prospects by the Manna on Main Street board.
Gould, who is at present executive director of Camp Onas Quaker Sleepover Camp in Ottsville, PA in Bucks County, has already had the privilege in meeting the board members, committee members and staff at Manna.
"When you have an organization that has that kind of passion and caring, and it extends from the board to the staff and volunteers, you really have the energy to do so much," Gould said. "My goal as executive director is to help them capture that passion and channel it into ways that are best for their clients. I know I want to help facilitate that and guide it into making sure it is done as best as possible."
When Gould first became acquainted with Manna, she was astounded by its history.
"I think one of the things that really astounded me was the way which Manna as an organization was created within the community by residents of North Penn and Lansdale to serve the people that live amongst them," she said. "They do it all by themselves; they are not a large social services agency and they are not a government agency. We are people deciding that hunger exists in the community and we want to do something about it. I find that very organic and inspiring."
Gould, a former Neshaminy School District elementary teacher, sees Lansdale as a community that is proactive versus reactive. In many cases, people look for someone else to solve problems.
"I've known Lansdale for many years. I've visited Lansdale and gone to things at different churches and at the library," said the Ottsville resident and Levittown native. "I'm impressed with the diversity and the promise that has been made in the community with the downtown. It is a vital and caring community."
That vitality is one of the traits that attraacted Gould to apply for the executive director position and serve Manna as part of Lansdale.
Gould, a Penn State grad, sent her resume and cover letter to the Manna board through Idealist.org, an online job site for volunteer opportunities, nonprofit jobs and internships.
A search committee headed by board vice chairman Kareem Afzal narrowed the selection down in May from 13 to three to two to Gould.
Running a nonprofit is no strange job to Gould. She has held the executive director position at Camp Onas since 1995. Several years ago, she told the Camp Onas board that 2012 would be her final year.
Gould said she had the right skill set for Manna on Main Street: She ran a nonprofit camp for children ages 8 to 13 and she was involved in a large financial aid program that brought about 10 percent of the children to camp whose families were not able to afford it. There is also the management of a big staff and an expansive property with facilities.
"I'm very interested in the kind of work that Manna does with people that need food. That was always something I was personally very concerned about," Gould said.
The success of Manna, she said, started with the peopel who founded it, continued with the work that former director Tom Allebach did, and developed through the involvement of the board, donors and volunteers.
"The organization is so well-served by so many that it has a wonderful future," she said. "I know the future will continue to serve people that need food. I know the mission will be expanded."
Gould is coming on board as Manna gets used to its new West Main Street location. She said the new headquarters can fully serve new and existing clients without difficulty.
"Moving into the new facility was the endpoint of a strategic plan," she said. "Now, the opportunity is to create this next strategic plan to fully utilize the facility to seve clients and provide social services and program services."
As far as the future collaboration on East Main Street, Gould said a lot of work needs to be done between now and when that will be realized by all parties.
"It is something that the board and staff are excited about and it does present opportunities to be able to partner with other organizations that are serving some of the same clients," Gould said. "It means that clients of Manna will be able to have other needs met in that space."
Through the rest of summer and into fall, Gould will be finishing up her job at Camp Onas and putting energy into training her replacement to continue the drive at that Bucks County camp.
In the same respect, interim Manna director Karen Kispert will be putting energy into transitioning Gould into her new role.
"When the transition occurs, it will be seamless and smooth so everybody can continue to do great work," Gould said.
There's a lot of work to be done on both ends.
"I know that I am leaving one great organization for another great one. It's a real privilege to say that," she said.
You can find out more about Gould on her LinkedIn profile.