The handsome conference table at Island Harvest's Mineola headquarters was a discard, refinished by a Boy Scout who wanted to help. Construction materials and labor for its new 24,000-square-foot Hauppauge warehouse were donated by union workers.
"We try to make people feel good about the impact they have by helping us," said Randi Shubin Dresner, who has been president and CEO since 2001. With so many in need, the goal is to maximize resources. "The culture is: It's donated first, it's paid for second."
Island Harvest was recently awarded a four-star rating by Charity Navigator, which praised its sound fiscal management and estimated it spends a remarkable 96.8 percent of its budget on programs.
On Shubin Dresner's watch the organization has grown 350 percent, distributing more than 11 million meals a year
The program also partners with other organizations to bring education and social services to clients. Its Summer Food Service served 45,000 lunches last year to children who rely on the school lunch program; it is expected to double that this summer.
"We can't stand the idea that there might be a child that we missed," she said. Fundraising is a critical part of what you do. What is your approach? We try to make every dollar count. A woman called and she said, "I have $150 to donate for eggs, but I want to buy the eggs." So I said to her, "Let me see if I can leverage it." Stop & Shop went to their distributor, and that $150 ended up being a whole truckload of eggs.
What is your philosophy as a boss?
I want to grow, I want to be better and I want to do better, and the only way I can do that is if everyone around me is growing too. If I can help my staff get what they need for professional development, I will grow too. The other thing is something I learned over time. ... that it's OK to listen to other people. It doesn't mean you don't know.
How do you integrate 5,000 volunteers into the organization?
My basic philosophy with volunteers is to match skills, needs and wants. I had a volunteer once who was a school principal -- a brilliant man -- and he was doing data input. I asked him if he wanted to do something more intellectual, and he said, "I am happy where I am." It's not just about what we want. It's about what we can do together.
What do you do to unwind?
Until a couple of years ago, work was what I did . . . Now I like to garden and to spend time with family. Family is very important to me.
Who is your role model?
Henry Viscardi (founder of the Viscardi Center in Albertson). His philosophy was that people with disabilities have abilities. He had this vision and he had the drive to not take no for an answer. And it was also how he treated people.
You have a lot of volunteer programs for kids. How is this part of your corporate vision?
I started in this industry when I was in elementary school. My school had an assembly about the March of Dimes. I like to say that I raised my hand and I never put it down. This kind of work made me the kind of person I am, so I feel a deep responsibility to help kids find the same meaning I did. It changed my life.
NAME: Randi Shubin Dresner, president and CEO, Island Harvest, Mineola
WHAT IT DOES: Deliver 14 million pounds of food a year to Long Islanders in need
EMPLOYEES: 36 paid staff, 5,000 volunteers
REVENUE: $27.5 million, including donations of food