I spoke to Tamela Luce on her third day as the new CEO of the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation, in between a whirlwind of community meetings. I let her know that this would be a somewhat unconventional interview, in the style of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine.
Krys: Andy’s first question was always “what did you have for breakfast?”
Tamela: Two eggs, toast and avocado. Same thing every day, although I alternate between coffee and tea. Today it was tea.
Krys: I hear that you like to travel. What is your favorite place you’ve ever visited, and what is still on your bucket list?
Tamela: Ooh, fun question! I think there are two place that really stick out in my mind. In 2008, before the Arab Spring, I spent 11 days touring all over Egypt. Then in 2015, I spent 17 days in China. Both trips involved river cruises, on the Nile and the Yangtze, and both were incredible. As far as bucket list places go, I still would like to visit Peru.
Krys: Macchu Picchu?
Tamela: Yes! That’s the place. It’s really high on my list.
Krys: Your LinkedIn bio states that you have “superior cat herding skills”. Tell me about that.
Tamela: Well, there are both actual and metaphorical cats here. At one point I owned four cats, and that was at least one too many. As far as metaphorical cat-herding, when I worked at Women’s Way, I was in charge of the Community Women’s Fund, and that program involved a lot of volunteer recruitment and training. We brought in community members and taught them how to give away money to create social impact. It was rewarding, but….like herding cats at times. I got pretty good at it.
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Krys: What was your very first job?
Tamela: I worked at Kaybee Toys in my hometown mall. I would not recommend it, especially during the holiday season.
Krys: What attracted you to the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation position?
Tamela: I have been involved with philanthropy for over 20 years. I saw this as an opportunity to learn about a new place in which there are already some strong programs, and to help the folks here continue to make Phoenixville even better.
Krys: I adore Phoenixville. I know you’ve only been here three days, but is there any place in town which has stood out for you?
Tamela: My partner is an author, so we were excited to attend the grand opening of Reads and Company Bookshop on Bridge Street. Bluebird Distillery is also a fun place.
Krys: I recently finished my master’s thesis on nonprofit executive transitions, and you are right in the middle of one, with Lou Beccaria retiring at the end of this month. How do you think the foundation prepared for the transition, and how might that impact your work?
Tamela: First of all, congratulations! I was obviously not privy to all of the conversations which happened prior to my arrival, but I can say that when I got here on my first day, my business cards were already here waiting for me. The staff seem very on top of things. Lou is a pillar of the Phoenixville community, having been president and CEO of the foundation for 21 years. He and I have spent the last couple of days meeting with various organizations in the community, so I can learn the programs which are in place and the faces behind the people who run them. I feel so fortunate to have this month of transition with Lou. I plan to take this opportunity to soak up as much of his brain as possible!
Krys: What part of this new adventure are you really looking forward to?
Tamela: Getting to know Phoenixville in a really deep way. The work I did at the HealthSpark Foundation was county-wide, and this is much more localized funding. My partner and I plan to move to town, so that will add a new dimension to my work as well. I have always lived in one place and worked somewhere else.
Krys: What do you think might be challenging?
Tamela: Chester County is a very wealthy county, so it can be difficult to show the real need that exists here. I hope to be able to tell that story well, so that I can harness the will and passion folks have for making things better.
Krys: What is the best advice, either personal or professional, that you have ever received?
Tamela: I once had someone I consider a mentor tell me that I needed to occupy more space physically. She said I tended to slouch a bit, and that I also needed to think about my presence in a room.
Krys: And how did you react to that?
Tamela: Well, it really made me aware of my posture! I also think that professionally, when we sit at the table as women, we can be talked over and around, and so it is important and sometimes imperative that we take up space and be heard.-30-
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