By Phil Walzer

Christopher Tan (M.P.A. '99) took the "less traditional" route to his master's in public administration. He started it straight out of college rather than after working for a few years.

It was the right move.

"The older I've gotten," Tan, 47, said, "the more I've grown to appreciate what I got at ODU and how much it prepared me for the things I did and the way I did them."

What he did includes serving as CEO of Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia. What he's been doing since May is running the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.

Tan summarizes his mission as feeding the people in line and eventually getting them out of that line. That, he said, will require a lot of listening.

"Sometimes they're waiting for two hours," said Tan, the president and CEO of the Foodbank. "We have an opportunity to engage them in how to achieve the goal of self-sufficiency. The best way to change somebody's life is through a relationship."

The Foodbank took a big step toward reducing food insecurity in Western Tidewater with the opening on Sept. 15 of a 17,000-square-foot warehouse in Franklin, which can accommodate 48 pallets - or 96,000 pounds of dry food.

"This new investment could not come at a better time," Tan said. "It's all about doing more - providing more food and more services to more people."

After Tan received his M.P.A. from Old Dominion, he served as an analyst for six years with the city of Newport News' Office on Children, Youth and Families and later as principal analyst for Norfolk's Department of Human Services.

Tan moved to the nonprofit side in 2011 because he thought he'd have more control and a more direct impact on people. He spent 11 years at Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia - two as chief operating officer and nine as CEO.

At the Foodbank, Tan oversees 70 employees. "It's very invigorating to work at a nonprofit with such a wide variety of jobs, from social worker to truck driver, and they're all focused on helping people, which is awesome," Tan said.

The job also merges two of his deepest interests: "This place has tons of data, plus the human element that I love."

Read more about Christopher Tan in the winter 2023 issue of Monarch magazine.

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