People who meet Ricky Clark, training and development coordinator and supervisor at the Academy for Staff Development for the Virginia Department of Corrections, have a hard time believing that he is actually an introvert. But Clark says it is the energy he gets from his involvement with ACFSA and ANFP that has made him more outgoing, and is why he continues to try to find ways to improve the groups to which he belongs.
“In 2000 I got my CDM [certified dietary manager] certification, and by doing that you automatically became a member of the Dietary Managers Association. I began attending the state chapter meetings because once you get your CDM you have to keep up your CEUs to keep your credentials. At the very first meeting I attended there was a lady named Doris St. Clair. I had questions because I wanted to know what was going on. After the meeting she said to me, ‘You need to be on this board. You’ve got a lot to offer.’ I worked all the positions on the board and then I started attending some of the national conferences and was singled out by a few people there who asked me if I would run for office. I was coming to the end of my tour of duty for ACFSA [American Correctional Food Service Association,] so I thought I’ll give it a try. I’ve been doing double duty for a while now.
I first became involved with ACFSA because of what the association does for me. You get to network with people from all over the country and you find out they have a lot of the same issues you do. It’s great to go there with a problem and come away with a solution. I think that happens a lot with our members. We learn from each other. We’re all doing the same thing, regardless of the type of facility we work in. We’re faced with all the same challenges and it’s nice to be able to go there to find out how to solve those challenges. And you can get solutions from the vendors there as well. They go around and visit all the facilities so they have a lot of the answers. We really underestimate the value our associations give us.
In the leadership roles I’ve held, I’ve learned that I need those members. They help me grow. They help me see my weaknesses and what I need to work on myself. There is no better way to grow than to draw strength from those people who have respect for what you do. I have gone through [testing] and I’ve learned that I’m an introvert. People hear that and they have a hard time believing that, but I am kind of backward and shy. But if you get me in front of a group of people that I can draw energy from, it’s like plugging me into a wall socket. I think I’ve learned that we all need each other to grow. I think people in the foodservice industry sometimes get put on the back burner, if you will, and don’t get recognized, don’t get noticed. They’re smart people, they have to be to get out a meal and keep their staff happy and make sure that everything runs smoothly. I’ve really come to love both my associations and respect the abilities of all our members.
With the Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals (formerly DMA), we’ve had committees working for the past two years to bring the new name and facelift all about. What I will be doing this year is answering to those who aren’t happy about our changes. I’ve already done a lot of that, visiting several state chapters over the past few months explaining why we did what we did and where we’re going. This has helped members understand better what’s going on. None of us really like change if we don’t know what the change is all about. So being the face of the association and going out to explain that we are now more than just dietary managers and this is how much more we have to offer is something that I’ve embraced.
With the ANFP one of the new things we’re working on is our educational programming. We’re actually going to go beyond the people who have their CDMs. Now we’re going to offer a course for people like dishwashers who haven’t really decided what career path they’re taking yet. We’re going to offer them a course that will give them a certificate and help them understand a little better the industry and help them choose the right road, if this is where they want to be. We’re also creating a master CDM program for the ones who already have their CDMs and want to know, ‘Where do I go from here?’ I want to have a class for them to take. I like that we help people grow. It’s all about changing people’s lives."