Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutritional Alliance announced last week that current chief operating officer Sue Daugherty will take over as executive director in October.
Daugherty will replace longtime chief executive officer Richard Keaveney, who announced his retirement earlier this summer. Keaveney will stay on as an advisor through the end of the year.
The board elected to move away from the CEO structure to the executive-director leadership format during the search process.
Daugherty, 39, will be the agency’s sixth executive director and its first to ever rise to the position from within MANNA.
She joined the agency in 1999 as a dietician and later ascended to the position of director of nutrition and client services. She was named COO in 2005.
A native of Philadelphia, Daugherty earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food science from Immaculata University.
In her first position in the field, she was asked by her employer to serve as dietician for an HIV/AIDS clinic for which the agency procured a contract.
She said that, while she felt unprepared for the role, it was a pivotal time.
“When I walked in, I felt like I was in another country — they were speaking with terminology and about medication I’d never heard of,” Daugherty said. “I walked up to the practice doctor and said, ‘I don’t think you want me here,’ and he asked if I would be afraid to shake the patients’ hands. And I said, ‘Of course not, no.’ And he said, ‘Well everything else you can learn.’ That moment was life changing for me.”
She got a crash course in the nutritional landscape for the HIV/AIDS community, and eventually went on to work for the clinic. When the MANNA dietician position came up, she said she jumped at the chance to join the organization.
In 2004 and 2005, MANNA underwent a period of financial struggle and was forced to lay off a number of employees and cut services.
Over the ensuing months, the agency spearheaded a reorganization, and Daugherty helped implement the pilot program that led to the agency expanding its mission to incorporate people living with myriad illnesses, not just HIV/AIDS.
“The financial crisis we had was a very hard time for everyone at MANNA, but when we were able to reopen our doors with renovated facilities and an expanded mission, that was the happiest and proudest I’ve ever been,” she said.
Daugherty became COO in 2005 during the restructuring process and said she was again eager to step up into a new role when Keaveney announced his departure.
“I’m so excited for MANNA and for our future,” she said. “We just completed a study that proves that keeping people nourished with three meals a day, seven days a week is keeping them out of hospitals. Nutrition is such a hot topic and it’s an exciting time for this. I think of MANNA as a 900-bed acute-care hospital: We’re delivering nourishment right to people’s homes instead of in hospital rooms. I’m very excited for the future and the great things we’re doing.”
Daugherty said one of her upcoming goals is to solidify MANNA’s image in the public eye, as some still confuse its mission with that of Meals on Wheels and other nutrition-focused organizations.
She said she plans to incorporate the entire MANNA team into the agency’s future work.
“We’re no longer a grassroots group but we can’t forget where we came from,” she said. “The most important lesson I’m going to take with me into this position is that any successes we have are because we’re a team — staff, volunteers, donors. We have 100 volunteers who come through our kitchen and our offices every day and without them we can’t do what we do.”