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Employee Spotlight: Meet Bill

As Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Specialist, Bill Vaovasa plays an essential role in fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment for all at Second Harvest. His passion for Second Harvest’s mission and dedication towards his work helps Second Harvest continue to advance our mission of providing food to people facing hunger and working to advance hunger solutions.

How long have you worked for Second Harvest, what is your role, and describe a typical day?

I have been here for four years, and would not trade my Second Harvest experience for any other entry on my resume. I specialize in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. I am grateful for the variety this opportunity creates daily. I truly can have five workdays in a week, that are all mutually-exclusive in routine from one day to another.

From overseeing the DEIB projects of our strategic plan, promoting inclusion via recruiting and hiring. Working with the DEIB committee on related projects. In a nutshell I am here to ensure our culture values DEIB. I am also accountable for compliance, education, and advocacy as it pertains to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. 

What do you enjoy most about working for a local hunger-relief organization?

The answer is in the question itself. I love that much of the work we do is felt in the communities I see daily.  

When you are not working, what do you like to do in your spare time?

My kiddos play on travel soccer and track teams so that eats up my free time. But when I’m not their personal sports porter, I’m an avid sports fan. If the sport has a ball, it’s my jam. Little known fact… I have also been called by none as “the single greatest fantasy football mind of our generation, and multiverse”. My son’s passion in video games has also rekindled my former passion as a gamer. I am a former collegiate debater so in my free time I coach debate at urban high schools. I also judge college and high school debate tourneys on the weekend.

In your eyes, how is the fight against hunger and the fight to highlight DEIB related?  

They are both chivalrous in nature. They are both grounded in altruism. If either is to be accomplished, it requires a certain degree of selflessness. 

What role does DEIB play in Second Harvest’s mission? 

Innovation is crucial to the fight against hunger. There’s overwhelming evidence that supports “diversity of ideas” make organizations more effective. Both are in direct correlation to the benefits of DEIB. That is a very practical answer. Here is what my heart believes… By creating an inclusive culture that celebrates differences, addresses shortcomings, and values disenfranchised voices we become more understanding of our mission, and better equipped to resolve hunger. Whilst striving to dig deeper to learn more about social disparities, exclusion, and marginalization of the communities we serve.     

What is important about celebrating and highlighting other identities and cultures to you? 

Finding the beauty of others, appreciating the differences, and making it a shared- experience teaches us about others, as well as revealing the true beauty of ourselves. 

What is important about celebrating and highlighting other identities and cultures to you? 

In terms of progress, we are all standing on the shoulder of giants. Furthermore, we must continue to value the struggle of those who sacrificed their families, liberties, and wellbeing for the benefit of you and me.

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