Eric Pizana is making a difference, both in the community and at Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado, where the 34-year-old has worked as the volunteer services and community outreach director since 2015.

He has expanded the volunteer base at Care and Share and implemented a system that uses skill-based volunteers who, for instance, might work on the organization’s software program rather than simply loading boxes with food.

“Eric has expanded what we consider a volunteer,” said Care and Share Chief Development Officer Shannon Brice. “He has helped us see immense possibilities.”

Pizana said he has received calls from food banks from California to New Jersey, asking about the volunteer engagement program.

In its last fiscal year, Care and Share, which has 50 full-time employees, made use of 6,182 volunteers who contributed 48,692 hours of time. That led to 19 million meals served in southern Colorado, Pizana said.

Prior to joining Care and Share, Pizana was executive director of Inside Out Youth Services, where he still volunteers as the volunteer coordinator. He went there as a participant in the program as a teenager.

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“Inside Out helps LGBT, and it helped shape who I am,” Pizana said. “It made me want to become a supportive adult for others.”

The Air Academy High School graduate earned a degree in psychology from UCCS before working at Urban Peak, a nonprofit that helps homeless youth ages 15 to 21. He also volunteered at Inside Out before joining the staff.

“I would have youth come to me and say, ‘You saved my life. You welcomed me the first day … and you changed my life.’ It didn’t feel like I did very much, but I was just there, and that’s the advice I’d give to any volunteer. Sometimes just listening is what people need.”

Brice has seen the positive effect that her co-worker has on others.

“His ability to thoughtfully challenge the status quo has earned him a great amount of respect among his friends and colleagues,” Brice said. “He is a powerful voice of change. Eric’s dedication to our community is truly inspiring. He is passionate about equality for all, working tirelessly to ensure inclusivity and diversity. Throughout his career, he has shined as an advocate for youth and those that are often marginalized.”

Pizana said it “feels phenomenal to be recognized in the community.”

He has also been part of Leadership Pikes Peak, where he was a steering committee member and project coach.

“He has found his calling in life as a volunteer and a leader of volunteers,” Brice said. “One of his greatest talents is understanding people and connecting them with opportunities that they will find fulfilling.”

— Bob Stephens

What makes Colorado Springs home?

When I’d go to Denver, it felt more accepting to LGBT people, and I felt Colorado Springs needed change-makers to make our community what we want, and I believe it’s happening.