Getting to Know the Interim Coordinator—Carolyn Tomaino

Interview by Tilden Chao, July 2019

Where did your passion for volunteerism begin?

I grew up on a dead-end street in New Hyde Park, Long Island. It was like a “small town” where all the neighbors knew each other and took care of each other. If someone was struggling, everyone chipped in to help them. When there was a big snow storm, a couple of women would take their sleds and go shopping, buy what they could find, and bring it to everybody in the neighborhood.

My parents were members of the Lions club, a service organization whose purpose, in part, is to improve the world through kindness. The Lions helped support a home for the visually impaired and we would spend an evening a month playing bingo with the residents. Some residents were also hearing impaired, and to play bingo, we’d write the letters and numbers in their hands. This inspired me to learn sign language, so I could communicate to them about more than the games we played. It was made clear to me, from a young age, that people need to do more than just go to work everyday, we need to make a contribution to our community.

How did you end up in Ithaca? How did Ithaca shape your life?

I went to Ithaca College and never left town. It is so different from Long Island, where everyone is in a rush, always waiting in line or in traffic, and not always able to be patient and kind. I’ll never forget my first visit to the Commons when I bumped into someone, who apologized to me. I was not expecting that!

My first “real” job out of college was working for a non-profit supported by Ben & Jerry’s called 1% For Peace. I then worked at the CBORD group—a food service and healthcare management software company. For the next 24 years I moved from administrative work, to technical support, to training and implementation and finally to project management. I was always involved with the community in some way, I did Women Swimmin twice, the AIDS ride a couple of times and shaved my head for St. Baldricks. But I wanted to do more so in 2013, I joined the FDN board of directors.

What do you do on FDN’s Board? What kind of decisions do you have to make, and what do you have to consider?

The FDN Board acts as the executive director, which leaves a lot of room for doing things! I’ve done pickups and drop offs, tabled at events, written grants, entered data, written documents, answered the phone on the weekends, cleaned up the facility, and more things I can’t even remember. We are now planning the Fall Feast, which will be on October 5th. More on that soon…

I heard that you’re going to be our FDN Coordinator from August to March, while Meaghan Sheehan Rosen is on sabbatical! What excites you about the job, and do you hope to accomplish anything in particular?

My intention is to maintain FDN’s focus on rescuing as much food as we can and finding more sources for distribution. Meaghan and I have spent a lot of time discussing how things get done and we’re both hoping that fresh eyes can identify where things can be more efficient. One of the things I loved doing at CBORD that I’ll bring to FDN is process improvement, looking at how things happen, and how things can become more automated. How can we use calendars and databases to maintain donors and volunteers? What ways can we communicate with people to make volunteering easier and more satisfying?

Carolyn’s Words of Wisdom

“If everyone did some type of volunteer work at some point in their life, the world would be a different place. You don’t have to do much—you just have to something. Once you start, the good feeling it gives you will probably make you want to do more. So, if we can bring people in, and give them the opportunity to do something good, we can make a difference.”

Carolyn’s Glowing FDN Memory

Picking up donations at the Farmer’s Market. “The farmers are so thankful—to be able to donate the things they couldn’t sell. I thought I’d be begging for donations, but farmers were loading up boxes and thanking me for taking donations from them. The literal fruits of their labor won’t go to waste,” Carolyn says.

Carolyn’s Upcoming Goals

“I want to visit our distribution partners, to see the good work their doing and to thank them for doing it”

Carolyn’s Final Statement

After so many years in corporate America, I’m thrilled to be doing something that improves our community. I’m passionate about the environment and human rights, and the mission of FDN to rescue food and get it to people totally reflects my values.