When Randi Shubin Dresner was 8, she raised her hand during a school assembly — and that one action shaped the course of her life.
The assembly, at McVey Elementary School in East Meadow, was focused on the March of Dimes, an organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies.
Representatives were there to talk about an upcoming walk-a-thon, and they asked students if they wanted to serve as school representatives for the event. Shubin Dresner didn’t hesitate to raise her hand.
“I raised my hand at 8 years old, and I never put it down again,” she said. “I volunteered through my entire childhood at the March of Dimes, as well as a couple of other organizations.”
Shubin Dresner, now 62, is the president and chief executive officer of Island Harvest, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, based in Melville. The food bank has a wide variety of programs to help feed those in need, from children to seniors and veterans.
She started there in 2001, after meeting longtime Island Harvest board member Stuart Richner, chief executive of Richner Communications and publisher of the Heralds, in an elevator at a networking event. At the time, Shubin Dresner was working at the Heckscher Museum of Art. She talked to Richner about the possibility of sponsoring an event the museum was having.
“In the time it took to go from one floor to the next, I introduced myself, told him about the organization that I worked with, and almost got him to become a sponsor of the event,” she recalled. “He is and was a board member at Island Harvest, and went back to the organization and said, ‘I just met this person — you better call her and recruit her to come to Island Harvest.’”
Shubin Dresner said that she turned the job down more than once before deciding to make the switch to the food bank. “It was an interesting mission that I could relate to, and it was a very small organization at the time,” she said. “I was encouraged by the fact that the board recognized that there was a lot of growth potential, and the board put a lot of trust in me and my vision for the organization.”
Island Harvest wasn’t the first time she explored her potential as a leader. Shubin Dresner has been in the nonprofit sector her whole life. In middle school, she started her own March of Dimes chapter in her basement, and recruited her friends.
“I just liked what they were talking about,” she recalled. “I liked their enthusiasm, and their excitement about the work they were doing, and I wanted to be part of it.”
At 17, she became a full-time employee at March of Dimes. And from there, she never looked back. Before landing at Island Harvest, she spent time at the Viscardi Center, in Albertson, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, among other organizations. At the National MS Society, she served as executive director of the Nassau County chapter, and at just 23, she transformed it from a failing organization to an award-winning chapter.
“I knew from an early age that this was going to be my career,” Shubin Dresner said. “I loved doing fundraising, I loved presenting and talking at groups, and giving back to the community, and creating programs that support that community.”
Many of her early career years were shaped by her time at the March of Dimes and the role models she met there — especially the organization’s executive director at the time, Lottie Seligman.
“In the mid- to late ’60s, there weren’t a lot of women in business,” Shubin Dresner said. “I watched (Seligman) and tried to model her in my early years of building my career. The women who were the directors and managers at the organization really taught me a lot. I had really incredible women models in my career.”
Now, at Island Harvest, she prides herself on the relationship she has with the board of directors, and how much she’s been able to involve her family in her lifelong mission of helping others.
“I’m honored to be in this work,” she said. “I’m honored to have this opportunity to work at organizations for an entire career that has an impact on changing lives.”