Weather Forecast


It's My Job: At the helm again: Diehl goes from one nonprofit to another

Greg Diehl recently took over as director of the Emergency Food Pantry in Fargo. The pantry served almost 5,000 people last year. Kia Farhang / The Forum

Fargo - At this point in Greg Diehl’s life, he’s probably a professional people-helper.

After two and a half decades at the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center – including seven years at the helm – Diehl came to Fargo’s Emergency Food Pantry in November, and has since become the director.

The center served almost 5,000 people last year, and is on track to surpass that in 2014.

Q: What was it like pivoting from your old job to your new one? A: It was quite a big change. At the crisis center, we had a big staff – 28 to 30. So I was basically supervising a lot of personnel and programs. I guess I wasn’t doing any direct service, per se.

And then I moved over here, where there were two full-time staff and one part-time staff. And the pantry is really – the work of the pantry is done by volunteers. There’s just no way that two and a half staff can accomplish the work.

So that was very different, because I was doing the same administrative functions, but adding to that the actual one-on-one interaction with clients.

Which I enjoy, and that’s one thing that was nice about coming here. Sometimes you get so far removed from the actual work that it feels like you’re just filling out reports and those kinds of things.

What’s the most challenging part of this job? I think the most challenging is trying to keep up with the increased demand for our services.

We’ve been doing things for 40 years – we opened in 1972. So just realizing that in order to keep up with demand, we have to change some of our practices, some of our processes. And then finding the time to be able to do that.

What do you think is driving that increased demand? When it comes to unemployment, we have low unemployment. Economically we’re one of the few areas that’s really booming. But we still have a very large number of individuals who are living paycheck to paycheck.

Either they’re working low-wage jobs or they’re on fixed income. So as costs rise, whether it’s food costs, utility costs, housing costs … those things are pretty fixed. So if those rise, one of the places that can get cut is spending on food.

What’s rewarding about this job? One is when people come into a food pantry, they’re at a pretty low place in their life. I’m not sure what the perception is out in the community, but most of the people that come into the pantry are working.

So they still come to the pantry and are quite embarrassed. I remember I had a woman last week who came in in tears, and kept apologizing that she had to come here.

So they’re at a very low point in their life. And so when you’re able to provide them with food, which is a basic need – especially when there are children in the family – it’s a very immediate gratification.

Anything else you want to add?

The pantry could not operate without the support of the community.

Sometimes people think that maybe we get all of our food or most of our food from the food bank, but really it’s … 70 percent of the food comes from the community.

The other piece, though, is the daily operation. The volunteers are fabulous here. On a daily basis, we probably have 20 volunteers.