Two core values here at MacKenzie are Philanthropy and Family. While seeking opportunities to get involved with a non-profit organization, our President of Operations, Katie Rucker, connected with the Orange County Ronald McDonald House and it was a perfect match. From the moment you walk through the doors at the house, it immediately feels like home – from the warm smiles, the smell of fresh baked cookies and the sounds of friendly conversation among house guests. The house’s mission is to provide comfort, care and support to families with critically ill children. This not only embodies MacKenzie’s core values, it has introduced us to a community of like-minded people who have quickly become good friends.
Last year as Katie was looking for ways to get involved with RMDH at a more strategic level, Katie met the OC House’s Executive Director and was immediately inspired with his passion, empathy and commitment to the cause. Under his guidance, the organization does an amazing job understanding the needs, wants and core characteristics of their donors and volunteers – who are the backbone of carrying out the mission. His wealth of leadership experience and insights lends itself perfectly to our Thought Leader Spotlight series, and we are fortunate he agreed to be our feature this month. It’s our pleasure to introduce the Executive Director of the Orange County Ronald McDonald House, Noel Burcelis.
Had you always envisioned philanthropy as part of your career path, or was it something that revealed itself along the way?
If you take Merriam-Webster’s definition of philanthropy as “goodwill to fellow members of the human race” then I would have to say that philanthropy may not have always been in my career path per se but always in my sights in some way.
What life experience(s) do you feel best prepared you for the leadership position you are in today?
Getting my Master’s degree in Social Work helped me develop skills I found critical in the various leadership positions I’ve been fortunate to hold. I learned about group dynamics, how to deal with conflict, self-awareness, self-care, leadership, being mindful of cultural and socio-economic differences and to uphold high ethical standards.
I also learned a lot from the examples of my parents. They were hardworking people who had a good sense of humor and demonstrated good work/life balance. They taught me the importance of being of good character, making the best of what you have, and service to others.
Who has had the biggest impact on you throughout your career – in regards to professional development?
In my over 25 years as a social worker and in management, I’ve attended numerous workshops on leadership and management. The thing that has made the biggest impact on me as far as professional development is not a person, but a book, more specifically, the Good Book. It has provided me guidance and insight on how to treat and lead others. It reminds me not to worry about things I cannot control, to be mindful of those who are in need, and to take time to simply “be still.”
Looking forward into 2019, are there any projects or initiatives that have you particularly excited?
Absolutely! In addition to celebrating our 30th Anniversary this year, our charity is looking to more than double the size of the Orange County Ronald McDonald House to better meet the community demands. The House will go from 20 guest rooms to 44 guest rooms and provide a variety of amenities that would enhance the experience of families with critically ill children staying at the Ronald McDonald House. Last year, we served over 2500 guests consisting of over 800 families. Imagine how many more lives we will be able to impact with our growth? This is truly a very exciting time.
Whether it relates to your professional or personal development, what is the best advice you’ve ever received?
There is a scripture passage that says, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” This thought grounds me when I find myself complaining about how hard life can be. It reminds to reflect on the blessings I have received and that I have a duty to use my skills to serve others.
When you work with families caring for their seriously ill child, you are reminded everyday to not to take health and life for granted. It truly puts things in perspective.
People wonder how I can work in such a serious and emotionally charged environment. The reality is, I draw inspiration from the parents and children I serve. I witness courage, faith, optimism, and love on a daily basis. In a world that is getting more and more automated leaving people distant and disconnected, my work environment is one of that connects you to humanity and the abundant richness it possesses.
What is your favorite quote?
“The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service; the fruit of service is peace.”
– Mother Teresa