I’m Beth Shapiro, CEO of Citymeals on Wheels, and This Is How I Work.

Citymeals on Wheels funds the delivery of more than 3 million meals a year to senior New Yorkers, filling in gaps such as weekends and holidays that don’t count towards government programs. Since 2011, Beth Shapiro has been the CEO of the non-profit organization, overseeing every step from fundraising to delivery, keeping up with an aging population and other changing needs. We talked to her about running an organization that has so much on the line.

Location: New York Current workplace : Citymeals on Wheels CEO Current mobile device: iPhone 6 / iPad Current computer: Dell (office) / MacBook (laptop) One word that best describes how you work: Collaborate

First of all, tell us a little about your past and how you got where you are now.

I grew up in North Carolina, but both of my parents are from Brooklyn. So I think New York is in my blood. I realized quite early that I wanted to get here.

Three days after I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I sold my battered car for $ 500 and used that money to move. I was fortunate enough to land an entry-level job at Ogilvy & Mather, the marketing and advertising giant. During my corporate career, both there and elsewhere, I have worked with accounts at American Express, Kraft Foods, Dun & Bradstreet, and Warner Bros.

Twenty years later, I wanted to change something. I wanted to apply my business skills to the non-profit sector and do something positive for the city that has become my home. It was quite challenging because many of the organizations I spoke with were reluctant to hire someone with no nonprofit experience. But after months of searching, I found Citymeals on Wheels to be a very good fit for me, and the result was a new position as Director of Marketing and Communications. This was in 2006. After five years in this role, I became CEO when Marcia Stein, founder and CEO, retired after thirty years.

Tell us about a recent work day.

I get up at 5am to check my email before I even get out of bed (in case something comes overnight). Then, on my way to work, I browse the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal . I like to be in the office by 7:30 am to get ready and think that I can sometimes get lost in my day to day work.

Yesterday began with a press call about the delivery of food to our addressees. I love this because it takes me from the office to the homes of the people we serve throughout New York. It’s very important for me to share the stories of these people who helped build our city, be it Frederick, who was a tailor for the NYPD, or Mary, who rode elephants at the Ringling Brothers Circus.

When I returned, I met with the leadership team of Citymills, after which a committee meeting with our Board of Directors took place. I could have a quick bite to eat at my desk while answering emails and phone calls. We have an event coming up soon, so I’m very focused on reaching out to the big sponsors who might come in at the last minute. I left the office by 6:00 pm for lunch with a donor and board member.

When I get home, I usually flop in front of the TV for at least 30 minutes to relax ( America’s Got Talent had last night). I often end the day by signing letters to our donors. It is important for me to thank them personally for their generosity. I’ll do one more quick email check before I turn on the lights and then turn around to do it again the next day.

What apps, gadgets or tools can’t you live without?

I can’t live without my iPhone and my family will tell you this! I totally rely on the MTA Subway Time app to get where I need to, all over the city. I also have a little interest in social media. On Facebook, I follow friends and family. In addition, I follow Citymeals on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as we shed light on what we are doing for seniors across the city.

How is your workplace arranged?

I have to admit, this is a little confusing! I have both a regular table and a stand-up table, which allows me to be flexible. To be honest, I would love to have a walking table.

Three more things that I keep really inspire me every day. The first one on my wall is the 1981 New York Times story that pushed Gael Greene, our co-founder, to start Citymeals. The article describes the plight of elderly New Yorkers who spent their days without food on Thanksgiving weekends because the city did not fund home delivery on weekends and holidays. Filled with Gaelle’s sketches of who she called to help, it’s a poignant reminder of why we’re here from our earliest days.

The second shows Mamie becoming the first food recipient I have ever visited. She lived in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the same area where my father grew up. The connection was immediate, but what really keeps it so strong in my memory is its spirit. She lived in a small, dark, cluttered apartment. Her shoes were held together with duct tape. But she caught fire when she spoke of her life, her late husband and the dinner parties they usually had. Her eyes flashed as she tilted her head to the side for this photo. It makes me smile now, just thinking about her.

And the last thing that matters to me is a 2006 New York Times article about our special Christmas food deliveries. It was the largest press article I received as a CMO: an entire page was titled “Over 34 Million Dinners, 34 Million Stories Worth Sharing.” This is really what we do. We deliver food to over 18,000 of our frail elderly neighbors throughout the city, and each of them has a story to tell about their lives. More than ten years later, we’ve delivered 58 million meals! It makes me so proud of what we have done and serves as a humble reminder of what remains to be done.

A little over a year ago, our landlord renovated the floor where our offices are located. This provided a real opportunity to reflect on how we work and interact with each other in relation to the space in which we live. Our offices once formed a very long, narrow corridor that usually drowned out conversations. Our workspace now consists mainly of lower booths, which create a more open collaboration environment. This allowed us to break down some of the disparate elements that different departments may share.

What’s your best shortcut or life hack?

Breath! At least once a day, I use the moment to slow down, breathe and refocus. Short circuit, stress or panic allows me to have a clear picture and move forward. This is why I keep an hourglass by the table as a reminder.

I also plan the next day every night on my way home.

What are the most effective ways to work with volunteers and encourage them to join the project?

Citymeals attracted over 21,000 volunteers last year to provide our food and communication lifecycle. I always say that if you order food, you are hooked. It is enough to see firsthand the impact a simple visit has on the life of a home-bound elderly New Yorker. But it is so important for our volunteers not only to feel involved and connected with the mission, but also to feel appreciated and appreciated.

Tell us about an interesting, unusual, or challenging process you have at work.

I recently started having lunch with a different staff member every month. I choose a name at random from a jar. I love this because it gives me the opportunity to speak with employees that I don’t often associate with, especially some of the younger employees, in a more relaxed environment where new ideas can be brought up and turned into something important to the organization.

Who are the people who help you achieve results, and how do you rely on them?

Everything we do here at Citymeals is built on the incredible generosity of New Yorkers. We have tens of thousands of volunteers and tens of thousands who donate to Citymeals to help us do what we do. Citymeals also relies on the culinary world – chefs, restaurants and the culinary community both inside and outside the city – that have supported Citymeals for over 35 years, preparing food through our Chefs Deliver program, opening their restaurants for fundraising and contributing talents for our special events.

Nor would I have been able to do what I do without the support of both my family, who incredibly respect and support my career, and the Citymeals management team, who never hesitate in their quest to roll up their sleeves to do whatever is necessary. to help elderly New Yorkers in need. We are a group that varies in our skills and experience, so seeing everyone come together to focus on the common good of the organization is a source of inspiration.

How do you keep track of what you need to do?

My notebook! In the mid-90s, I turned to the world of planner Franklin Covey. I no longer have the planner, but if I lose the spiral notepad, I’m in big trouble.

How to recharge or relax?

I am someone who can sit at my desk for hours and completely lose track of time, which is bad physically and mentally. So it became important for me to get up and walk every hour or so. On a good day, I even go outside. Outside of work, I like to get on my bike and clear my head, or maybe go swimming (my favorite stress reliever).

What’s your favorite side project?

My current side project is house hunting and it takes quite a long time. We made the decision to move back to the city, and it really is a full-time job that I squeeze in for a few hours a week. I want to find something that is easily accessible to work and comfortable for my two new college kids. Although my husband and I are now empty nests, I still want something warm and welcoming for our children.

Another side project of mine is preparing for a long distance cycling trip, which I do in the fall. It’s hard for me to make time, but it’s incredibly important to me, as the three-day trip of 300 miles is a memory of my brother. It has become something of a family affair that also involves my children and cousins.

What are you reading now or what do you recommend?

I love reading, but I can get so carried away that I don’t sleep all night. I need to stop and go to bed! I just ordered Allison Pearson’s How Hard It Can Be , a sequel to her earlier book on trying to be a super mom. Now the main character, Kate, is in her fifties, and she is entering another stage of her life. Like me with children and aging parents, she has to manage both sides of the life spectrum. My parents live in Florida. My work really helps me to better understand the aging process and what is needed for a comfortable stay. It truly takes dedication, patience, and a lot of humor to get ahead with some tough decisions along the way.

Who else would you like to see to answer these questions?

Kirsten Gillibrand , Daniel Bulud and my husband.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Be true to who you are, keep doing what you do, and focus on achieving perfection.

The second best advice I have ever received was in fourth grade. In the middle of the year, I changed schools and was very nervous about making new friends. I am internally shy and my father said, “Keep your mouth shut.” He advised me to listen to other people, find out who they are, and then understand what you have to say. This advice has helped me throughout my life. I think I am very good at understanding people, and part of that has to do with understanding the importance of deep listening.

What problem are you still trying to solve?

The biggest challenge facing Citymeals is increasing its annual fundraising volume to meet growing needs. With a rapidly growing population of seniors across the country, including here in New York, we must provide the city’s most vulnerable people with adequate food so that they can age in their own homes and communities where they have lived for decades and want to stay. …


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