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Inspiring Innovation

by Catherine McAuliffe

This is our first week without our DukeEngage summer interns. We are so grateful for the hard work they did this summer and we will miss seeing them around the office. Below is a blog post written by one of the interns before leaving us to head back to school. Thanks for everything Kevin and Danielle and good luck with school!

A friend of mine referred to Seattle as “a place where the quiet rain meets the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, down-to-earth is the only direction, and innovation springs from the coffee shops on every corner.”

Luckily for me, this summer has been chock full of two of those three Seattle gems. I am gladly missing out on the trademark rain (that shockingly does not call for umbrellas!), but being down-to-earth has never felt more necessary than with DukeEngage. Innovation has never felt more inspiring than with Northwest Harvest.

The Cherry Street Food Bank is a special place within the organization, always living up to its core values with cheerful volunteers ready to help. However, just the other day I was outside meeting a volunteer when he said, “We are working to put ourselves out of business.” The non-profit sector is a funny place in that sense. For the past 5 weeks I have learned what clients go through and what it takes to serve them, bringing me “down-to-earth”. On the other hand, I have also had to come up with new ideas in order to help Northwest Harvest better serve its clients in the hope that one day this work will be obsolete.

To me, Northwest Harvest itself is an innovation. As one of the first organizations in the country to commit itself to fighting hunger (and with an exceptional mission), Northwest Harvest is a pioneer and a leader in helping others. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, wrote that “The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.” Having been researching the history of the organization for some time now, I can say without a doubt that Northwest Harvest embodies that concept of leadership. From day 1 we have sworn to take the time to learn about the problems facing our clients and what we can do to help. Although our innovation springs from the gym of a church and warehouses, not a coffee shop, this operation is quite the advancement in helping others.

I know that we will only continue to innovate and reinforce what it means to lend a hand, educating others on that down-to-earth level, inspiring them to help.

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