Shannon Coker 2 copy.jpg

Shannon Coker

There aren’t many Springs natives who stick around long enough to be highly visible members of the community. Shannon Coker is one of the few. Coker has called Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado her professional home since October of 2007; she currently works as chief operating officer.

Care and Share was her second job out of college, after an 18-month stint at the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and she’s held six titles with the organization. It’s unusual for professionals to stay with an organization for quite so long, especially in the burnout-rife nonprofit world. But she still has the fire for her work.

“It stems back to several different things, but most importantly … for the last 14 years, every single day, I know that I’ve contributed something in the course of that work day that will ultimately lead to someone having food on their table that night,” said Coker. “That just keeps me coming back for more.”

Coker first worked with Care and Share as a student at Doherty High School. She was on student council, and under the guidance of council adviser Catherine Bowie — known to students as Miss Mac — Coker helped run Doherty’s part of the area Harvest of Love food drive for the organization. Miss Mac made an impression on Coker, talking about how every can of food they brought in was a dinner for someone who might not otherwise have eat. Over the course of Coker’s career, she’s maintained a friendship with Miss Mac and considers her a role model and confidante, though it seems no less fair to call her a collaborator.

“She still leads the charge at Doherty for the Harvest of Love food drives,” said Coker.

During her time at Care and Share, Coker has been in many corners of the organization, from her starting role as events and promotions manager to her time managing branding standards for the organization to running the fundraising department.

In her work, she has described herself as an activator — someone who is given a task and will run with it and run fast. She’s used that mindset to push her team to help a wider swathe of the Colorado Springs community. That said, she’s spent most of her time at Care and Share as the marketing and communications director, so the importance of clear, precise communication is just as central to her work, even now. Keeping her staff and all other stakeholders informed keeps them invested, Coker has found.

“They know why it is that we’re doing a certain thing, so that they can be bought into the bigger picture and empowered to pick up the ball and run with it,” she said.

Recommending Coker for Women of Influence, Care and Share CEO and 2005 Woman of Influence Lynne Telford cited Coker’s leadership skills, people skills and “exceptional communication techniques” as some of the things that make her essential to the company. 

At this point in her career, Coker can’t imagine an opportunity that would take her out of Colorado Springs. Her roots run deep, both in Care and Share and in the community at large, and she has said that her institutional knowledge of how the city has changed over the years gives her greater insight into the problems that she and her team face. It also makes the work more satisfying, as it puts into clearer relief the impact that her work has. 

It fuels her, as does looking at all the food the organization has in its warehouse and knowing that every item will keep someone from going hungry. But she saves a certain amount of credit for the spark that started her on this path.

“I still have that ignition in me,” she said, “because of Miss Mac from Doherty.”