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Woman's focus is food

February 28, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Ruth Anne Callaham calls her move into a leadership position at a local nonprofit agency a "God thing."

A computer specialist, Callaham took early retirement from her position as a project manager for the Internal Revenue Service in Martinsburg, W.Va., just days before she heard about the opening for an executive director at Food Resources Inc. in Hagerstown.

The nonprofit agency provides eligible Washington County residents and more than 55 member organizations with discounted food.

"I retired on Dec. 31, and at that very junction in time, this position came open," said Callaham, 53, of Hagerstown. "I view myself as a woman of faith - so for me, it was one of those God things."

Callaham took over at Food Resources in early February. She replaced John Christy, who left the agency in November 2002, said Steve Runkle, board president.

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Callaham was selected from a pool of about 40 applicants, Runkle said.

Her extensive experience, enthusiasm for the agency's planned growth, and "strong passion for the role she can play in the community" make her an ideal fit for the agency, he said.

Callaham holds a master's degree in business administration from Mount St. Mary's College, where she teaches in the accelerated MBA program. The San Antonio native spent 23 years working for the federal government, including 13 years as a computer specialist at the former Fort Richie Army base in Cascade and 10 years for the IRS.

Callaham is on the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity of Washington County and the Housing Authority of Washington County.

Her short-term goals for Food Resources focus on bringing more food to more people for less money - especially at a time when rising fuel prices are forcing some low-income wage earners to choose between filling their gas tanks and putting food on family dinner tables, Callaham said.

She hopes to raise awareness about hunger in the Tri-State area in part through a promotional campaign that will feature well-known local personalities holding "Will Work For Food" signs - a publicity strategy that's been popular for New York City's largest food bank, Callaham said.

Callaham said she plans to strengthen partnerships with other help agencies throughout the Tri-State area.

Callaham said she hopes to improve the flow of food left over at restaurants and charity functions to soup kitchens and other worthy efforts.

And she wants to decrease by one cent the cost per pound of food distributed through Food Resources. The agency charges a "shared maintenance" fee of 12 cents per pound to help cover operating costs at the agency's warehouse on McRand Court.

She said she hopes to reduce the fee by the end of this year by tapping into grants and soliciting for more donations.

"If I cut that cost to 11 cents in one year, I'll feel like I've accomplished a great deal," she said.

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