FERGUS – Curt McQueen had both a rousing send-off and a momentous welcome on Jan. 30 as he retired as principal of Elora Public School and started a new job as manager of the Centre Wellington Food Bank.
It’s a career change the 50-year-old did not take lightly and one he feels even more committed to as he assumes his new role.
McQueen has been an educator with the Upper Grand District School Board for 25 years – most of that in administration.
He has been the principal at schools in Guelph, Drayton, Mount Forest, and four years ago became principal in Elora.
“I’ve been at big schools, rural schools, busy schools and I’ve opened new schools,” he said in an interview.
“I’ve had amazing opportunities with the school board.”
But as he looked to his future and advancing his career, he knew he didn’t want to become a superintendent or to work with the Ministry of Education or the Faculty of Education – the typical routes for advancement.
What he liked about being a principal was the busy-ness of the job and the multi-tasking.
“I also like working with people,” he added. “I like to have lots of balls in the air and make a daily difference.”
Fred Aleksandrowicz, who had served as manger of the Centre Wellington Food Bank since 2009, departed the organization in October.
When McQueen learned about the opening at the food bank, “I took my time learning about the job. I was very deliberate,” he said.
And when he learned he got the job, he began wrapping up things at the school to make the transition between terms.
On Monday, staff, students and parents at Elora Public School threw a surprise assembly.
Along with messages of thanks and support, McQueen learned they had held a secret food drive in his honour.
So he walked into the food bank later that day with two carloads of food.
Not a bad way to make a good first impression, he joked.
“What a finish. What a start,” he said.
Four days in, McQueen said he’s already impressed with the food bank itself, its volunteers, its solid partnerships, its efficient way of processing donations and serving clients, and its vast reach.
“While it’s unfortunate that food banks are a necessity, we are very lucky to have this place in the community,” he said.
Food prices are rising, demand for the food bank is up, and meeting the ongoing need will be a challenge, he said.
“In education I would see the needs of people and part of my skillset is non-judgmental compassion, whether it’s kids or adults. That will be needed here too,” he said.
“We don’t know people’s stories. We don’t know what brings them here. And we are here to help, through service and leadership.”
McQueen said the food bank loves when groups hold their own food drives, but it’s helpful if they contact the food bank first.
And for those struggling financially yet still resist going to the food bank, “give us a call,” he said.
“It’s a simple intake process.”
For more information visit cwfoodbank.org or call 519-787-1401.