Meet Carmen Cumberland.
Carmen Cumberland, President and CEO of Community Harvest Food Bank, is a Fort Wayne native and graduate of South Side High School. Carmen is also a Veteran, having served four years in the United States Navy. She holds a bachelor of science in accounting from Western Governors University.
Carmen has been in the non-profit sector since 1998. After spending two years as the accounting assistant at Catholic Charities, she joined Community Harvest Food Bank in 2001, serving both as the Director of Finance and the Human Resource Manager. In that capacity, she was responsible for the development and implementation of the agency budget, working closely with senior staff and the board of directors. Carmen also managed human resource functions for Community Harvest, including employee recruitment and selection, benefits and compensation, training and development, and employee relations. In December 2014, Carmen was asked to serve as the Interim Executive Director by Community Harvest‘s Board of Directors. She maintained her roles in finance and human resource management while leading all aspects of daily operations of the food bank as Interim Executive Director. In January 2016, Carmen officially became Executive President of Community Harvest as part of the new executive leadership team with John Wolf, appointed as Chief Executive Officer. In July 2021, Carmen accepted the role of President and CEO after John Wolf’s retirement.
In addition to her work at Community Harvest Food Bank, Carmen serves on several boards and committees. She is a board member and volunteer co-chair of the Northeast Indiana Base Community Council (NIBCC), which serves as a catalyst in unifying the military and civilian components of our community. In addition, she serves as volunteer co-chair of Race for the Warrior and Golf for the Warrior. Carmen is a board member and treasurer of FIsH (Feeding Indiana’s Hungry), a finance committee member of Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry, a member of 100+ Women Who Care Fort Wayne, and NIPSCO’s East Region Community Advisory Panel (CAPS).
In 2017, Carmen and her husband, Chad, purchased a 23-acre farm, which includes 16 tillable acres and a greenhouse. They grow green beans, sweet corn, edamame, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, and broccoli that are distributed through Community Harvest’s programs in northeast Indiana. To date, Shared Harvest, a female and Veteran-owned farm, has produced nearly 500,000 pounds of produce for neighbors in need.
YWCA: What does an “empowering woman” mean to you?
Carmen: The best sense of empowerment comes from within, not necessarily from someone else. It means you have the freedom to choose in both your professional and personal life. An empowering woman is confident, assertive, determined, while still being relatable in a very human way. She leads by example and respects others with dignity.
YWCA: In what ways do you feel you empower other women?
Carmen: I give women the ability to take charge of their positions and “own them.” I provide women with the necessary tools and allow them to use their own judgment as a sign of trust and belief that they will be able to handle it. I assure them that I will always be their biggest cheerleader when they are victorious, and that I will be by their side when they’re not. It all comes down to making someone feel valued and appreciated.
YWCA: Would you share a tidbit of information or experience that may be helpful to other women?
Carmen: Everyone has a story. Share your story even if it puts you in a vulnerable position. In many cases, you may find that you are not alone; there are others that share the same or similar chapters in your book. Each and every one of us is valued, whether we feel it or not. You only get one chance at this life, so why not enjoy the many splendors and challenges it offers? I encourage women, if they have not already, to join a networking group. There are so many amazing women in our community, and they are just waiting to embrace you.