Bender replaces Souper Bowl of Caring founder and former Executive Director Rev. Brad Smith, who in 2009 accepted a call to become Senior Pastor at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Columbia. Smith continues his involvement with the organization as Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Directors.
Bender worked alongside Souper Bowl of Caring founder Smith for five years, during which time she created the National Youth Advisory Board, a service leadership group comprised of 12 high school youth from across the nation. She also shaped the direction of a branding campaign that helped the grassroots effort grow to become the national movement it is today.
During Bender's years with the organization, yearly totals have increased dramatically, from $4 million collected in 2005 (her first year with the organization) to the more than $10 million the Souper Bowl of Caring has collected for the past three years. The national movement has generated more than $70 million for food banks, soup kitchens and other charities since its inception.
"Tracy's clear vision and gift for motivating young people have been a blessing to this mission of caring, " said Smith. "I am extremely proud and happy to pass this torch to her."
Souper Bowl of Caring Board Chair Dave Peterson expressed his support of Bender's appointment. "We are excited to have Tracy as our new CEO," said Peterson. "Her enthusiasm for the mission combined with her expertise in communications and strategic planning make her ideal to lead and grow this organization."
A graduate of the University of South Carolina's College of Journalism with a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising, Bender's background includes experience in the public and private sectors. Her previous positions include Account Executive at Erwin Penland advertising agency in Greenville, Director of Marketing and Development for the Special Olympics of South Carolina, and Director of Public Relations at the Souper Bowl of Caring.
Bender has been honored with awards including the Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2008 from the USC College of Journalism and Mass Communications, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in 2001 from USC, and the Outstanding Newcomer Award in 2001 from Erwin Penland. She is a past member of the Board of Directors for the University of South Carolina Young Alumni Council, a graduate of the Leadership Columbia Class of 2004 and an active member of Shandon United Methodist Church, where she is Chairman of the Communications Committee as well as a teacher and youth counselor.