Margie Pizzuti describes her job as a "sweet spot" that satisfies her desire to care for her community and requires her to utilize entrepreneurial skills.

Margie Pizzuti describes her job as a "sweet spot" that satisfies her desire to care for her community and requires her to utilize entrepreneurial skills.

As CEO of Goodwill Columbus, Pizzuti oversees the nonprofit agency's $41 million budget, more than 1,200 employees and hundreds of volunteers. The organization, which provides more than two million hours of service annually, helps individuals with disabilities and other barriers find work opportunities, gain independence and improve their quality of life. The agency provides job training and placement services, day and residential programs and social and educational services.

"I am enormously blessed," Pizzuti says. "(My job) allows me to pursue my passion for service as well as run a business. I realized as soon as I got here that individuals with disabilities and other barriers need a voice. Often times, they don't have a voice so we need to be that voice."

Pizzuti took the helm of the organization in 2005. She was the "outside-of-the-box candidate" that a headhunter presented to the Goodwill Columbus board of directors. Her background includes leadership positions in state government, the private sector and at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Typically, Goodwill boards hire leaders from within the organization that has independent branches throughout the country.

After learning about the organization's mission, Pizzuti says she was excited about the possibility of a new challenge.

"I thought if I have one more career reinvention in me, this is the place. Not everybody enjoys moving out of their comfort zone or likes living in the grey area," she says. "I like the complexity. You are never too old to learn."

One of the challenges of the job is making sure that the organization continues to identify individuals who can benefit from its services, says Pizzuti. Today, the agency focuses not only people with physical or mental disabilities but also has veterans, formerly homeless individuals and people with mental health diagnoses as clients.

"It's a really diverse mix of individuals that we serve," she says. "Our overarching mission is to transform the lives of individuals with disabilities and other barriers through pathways to independence and the power of work."

Pizzuti also worries about the organization's financial sustainability.

"The financial landscape is shifting dramatically for nonprofit health and human services agencies. Government funding at all levels is under stress. Even corporations and foundations are questionable," she says. "Our challenge is that there is so much need out there in the community. The needs are ever-growing and the resources are evermore scarce."

As she and her staff prepare for the future, she is thankful that the agency is known for giving "a hand up, not a hand out." She also understands the influence of the Goodwill brand, which is one of the most powerful brands in the country.

Those pluses impact the amount of community support the agency receives.

Locally, the organization has added donation centers and retail stores. The sale of donated goods at its six retail outlets contributed $9.2 million to Goodwill Columbus' annual budget last year. Donated items that cannot be sold in the store are recycled. Some of the recycled goods helped generate another $1.2 million for the organization.

One of Pizzuti's key strategies for running the organization, which has so many different elements, is surrounding herself with talented people.

"The number one way to be successful as a leader of an organization is to have really smart people" working for you," she says.

It's also important to empower people to do their jobs, she says.

Another piece of advice she shares with other would-be leaders: "Be authentic."

Throughout her career, the Kent State University graduate and mother of two has pursued community service-trying to follow the advice of Marian Wright Edelman. The founder of the Children's Defense Fund once called service "the rent we pay to be living." Pizzuti has served on numerous community boards and spent 12 years on the Upper Arlington Schools Board of Education.

"I feel like I was a good role model for both my children. Paying forward in the community has been a strong path for me," says Pizzuti, whose own working mother gave back to her community.

Although Pizzuti says there isn't much she would change about her career path, she does believe people need to create balance in their life.

"It's not work-life balance," says Pizzuti, who enjoys bike riding, cooking and traveling in her free time. "It's life balance."

Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.

Hear a selection of Pizzuti's favorite songs