Linda McKeever, associated with Open Heart Kitchen almost since it was founded in 1995 and most recently its executive director, is no longer with the organization, but nobody seems to know why.
David Kinley, board president of the nonprofit, said only that "Open Heart Kitchen and Linda McKeever mutually agreed to part ways."
"We are now recruiting for the position of executive director," Kinley said. "In the meantime, our operations director, Clare Gomes, will be serving as interim executive director."
McKeever's departure from her longtime post of director and chief spokeswoman for Open Heart Kitchen, the only hot meal program in the Tri-Valley, was not announced by the organization or McKeever, who is currently out of town. Her absence surfaced when an email to her was answered by Gomes, who said McKeever was no longer with the organization.
An application sent to McKeever to apply again for the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund when the 2016 campaign begins Nov. 18 was returned with Gomes' name without explanation.
However, Open Heart Kitchen's website still lists McKeever as executive director.
McKeever's sudden departure recalls a similar situation last summer when Susan Hayes, executive director of the Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE) Foundation, was dismissed from her position with no announcement or explanation.
Like Hayes at PPIE, McKeever is well known for her leadership of Open Heart Kitchen by thousands who contribute to the organization and support it through donations of food. Her departure comes at a critical time as the organization boots up for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays when its meals for the hungry are most needed.
Last year, Open Heart Kitchen served more than 350,000 hot meals. McKeever also expanded its box lunch program to 21 schools to ensure that all students receive a nutritious mid-day meal on the weekends. With increasing demands for its meal programs, Open Heart Kitchen has been working to expand its hot meal service to seven days a week.
Interim executive director Gomes joined Open Heart Kitchen in September 2014. As operations director, she oversaw the entire day-to-day operations of the organization. She began her career in the semi-conductor industry where she spent 10 years as an engineer.
She then took some time off to raise her family before taking her career in a new direction in the nonprofit arena. Prior to joining Open Heart Kitchen, Gomes spent nearly 10 years managing the food pantry for a local nonprofit.
Besides Kinley, other officers of the Open Heart Kitchen board of directors are Emily Wagner, retired finance director for the city of Pleasanton, board vice president; Emilie Fox, underwriting counsel for Stewart Title Guaranty Company, board secretary; and Claudia Lazzarato, a certified public accountant and tax manager at Robert Lee & Associates, board treasurer.
The other board members include Bruce Bird, investment advisor representative of Transamerica Financial Advisors, Inc.; Justin Gagnon, CEO of Choicelunch, a San Ramon-based healthy school lunch company; Joanne Hall, retired public information officer for the city of Pleasanton; and Gary Harrington, retired after more than three decades as an educator in the public school system.
Rounding out the list are Karen Liamos, technical product manager in the software tools organization at Workday, Inc.; Ted Monk, vice president of Sodexo, where he has responsibility for providing food and facility management solutions to over 200 school districts; Kristina Vannoni, associate marketing director for The Clorox Co.; Carl Wolfston of Headlands Associates; and John Higgins, vice president, gas operations for PG&E.