Ben Spirk sorts donations at the South County post office during the Stamp Out Hunger food drive / Photo by Bethany Prange
What do you get when you mix a numbers nerd with a strong passion to help feed those in need?
That’s right. You get me – the vice president of finance at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
Most kids grow up thinking they’re going to be an astronaut or the president of the United States. But me, I dreamed of a job where I could help people.
In grade school, I gathered some friends, and spent about a month organizing a haunted forest in the woods behind my house. We successfully sold tickets and concessions during the one night event. We also collected can goods in return for discounted tickets.
I was ecstatic when I realized we had collected two large boxes of can goods and $200!
My friends and I donated the can goods to Feed My People (one of the 500 food pantries served by the St. Louis Area Foodbank) and gave the money to a recent widow in the neighborhood who had lost her husband to cancer.
I know that charitable effort is relatively small in the grand scheme of things, but it helped me turn into the person I am today. I went on to participate in Scouting for Food with my boy scout troop, and enjoyed preparing meals for the homeless with my church.
But as I dreamed of a future where I could help others every day, I ran into a problem. I wondered how I could make a living by simply helping people.
In school, I whizzed through algebra, statistics, and even calculus. At last, I made the connection – I could use my given talent for numbers to do accounting for nonprofits!
I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and earned my Certified Public Accountant license. I began my career at a CPA firm where I most enjoyed helping charities reach their financial goals, and in turn, further their missions.
After auditing in public accounting for about six years, I finally found the perfect opportunity.
When I heard there was an opening for the vice president of finance at the Foodbank, I knew it would be a perfect fit. After about a year and a half on the job, I know I made the right career move.
Through budgeting, forecasting, and overall financial analysis, I help the Foodbank remain one of the most efficient topnotch charities in the region.
It turns out my mad math skills CAN be a huge asset to the mission of feeding people in need! I’m grateful every day that I can help make a difference in the lives of hungry families.
Ben Spirk is the Vice President of Finance at the St. Louis Area Foodbank