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FISH Food Bank hits another milestone by hiring executive director

Posted on March 27th, 2023 By:

Not long after opening its new, state-of-the-art building, Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH Food Bank reached another major milestone. 

The food bank’s first executive director, Pam Leazer, started work at the agency March 1. She is the first executive director, and just the second paid employee, in the 47-year history of the volunteer-driven organization. 

Leazer has a long resume of nonprofit work, including many years with the American Red Cross. 

Pam Leazer

She connected with FISH first as a consultant working on the capital campaign that allowed the food bank to construct its new building on Burnham Drive. She was struck by the audacity of the project. 

“They were going to launch a capital campaign. In the midst of a pandemic. As an all-volunteer organization,” Leazer said. 

Over the course of her consulting work, she said, “I fell in love with FISH.” 

 FISH’s new building

FISH opened its new 11,500-square-foot building in July 2022. The organization reaised more than $8 million from individuals, foundations, businesses and government grants. 

It’s not a coincidence that FISH brought on its first executive director not long after moving in. As Leazer pointed out, with the new facility means the organization is “doing business a little differently.”

Volunteers continue to be the strength of the organization. It has more than 200 volunteers on its roster now. 

The dedication and expertise of the volunteers — inclduing many professionals with backgrounds in fields like law and accounting — is what spared FISH the expense of hiring an executive director for so long, board president Ron Coen said. 

But its growth, highlighted by the new building, drives home the need for a professional to lead the organization. 

Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH’s new building off Burnham Drive.

“This organization has continued to expand,” Coen said. “That’s why we needed someone with the kind of background Pam has. We needed a professional to help us.” 

 ‘More than a food bank’

Leazer leads an organization that bills itself as “more than a food bank.” It also offers clothing, transportation services, educational support and helps connect clients to other community resources. It offers emergency financial assistance for utilities and rent. 

“It’s like running a mid-sized grocery store,” Leazer said, “with a clothing department and a social services wing.” 

She sees her role as helping facilitate and support the volunteers who are the lifeblood of FISH. 

Her role is technically part-time. So is that of the organization’s other employee, facilities manager Bill Mumford. 

She lives near Horseshoe Lake in South Kitsap County with her husband, Hal, and their Papillon dog, Abby.