By Alyssa Dearborn
Beth Trunfio’s fingerprints are everywhere at the Ronald McDonald House in Syracuse. Celebrating her 20-year anniversary with the local organization — a significant milestone for anyone — Trunfio instills a sense of community, hard-work, and perseverance in everything she does.
“This living room where we’re seated today is the culmination of a lot of people’s hard work, vision, and support,” Trunfio said of the building, which was completed in 2012 and has served thousands of families since then. “Building this new larger, fully handicapped-accessible Ronald McDonald House so that we can better serve families who are in crisis is really something that I am so proud of. It’s not just what we built, it’s what we’re able to do in this home.”
Although Trunfio spent a significant amount of time helping better the lives of families and their children through her work at the House, her passion for giving began early in her career.
“Volunteering has always been something that I was interested in as a young person,” said Trunfio.
Trunfio’s first “real job” was as an assistant to the director at a television station, and one of her major tasks was coordinating the station’s annual telethon.
“It was so much fun,” she said. “I loved the logistics, I loved meeting new people and coordinating those people to be an honest program.”
Helping to organize that one televised charity event led her into working with a human services non-profit organization. After spending seven years with her first non-profit job, she found her way back to the Syracuse area and to the Ronald McDonald House of Central New York. Through many happy coincidences, Trunfio created her own path in a rewarding career.
“I have been fortunate that I fell into this incredible career that I seemed to have an affinity for,” Trunfio said. “It’s rewarding to be able to wake up every day for more than 30 years — 20 of them at the Ronald McDonald House — and be able to really look forward to my day and then go home at the end of the day feeling satisfied, gratified, and grateful.”
As director she saw the opportunity to make visitors’ lives easier. In her years spent at the Central New York organization she oversaw the building of a second larger, handicapped-accessible home and helped pioneer a community giving event called the Many Hearts One Home Celebration.
“My hope is that we can all continue to work together and partner together in what we’re doing to ensure the good for everyone,” Trunfio said. “I think having the opportunity to live in a community that is so caring and compassionate — and the be able to witness that on a daily basis — is just rewarding and a gift.”
Though the generous nature of her work helped her to develop, as she called it, “A glass is half full” mentality, she never forgot credit the inspiration that came from the community as well as from the visitors.
“To be able to meet families and be a part of the families’ lives,” Trunfio added, “and to know that we’re partners with a lot of their providers and team members shows how fortunate we are in this community.”
The sense of hopefulness effected both her professional outlook as well as her personal outlook on life over the years. “My hopes and dreams are so tied to this organization’s mission and to children, family, health, and wellbeing,” Trunfio said. “I hope the same for the good health and wellbeing for my family and certainly for those around me.”
Trunfio — and the Ronald McDonald House as a whole — is without a doubt fortunate to have accomplished great things that make the lives of others better. But she is consistently realistic about what it means to be a leader in a non-profit organization.
“All of these service agencies and non-profits rely on volunteers,” Trunfio said. “We were founded as a grassroots organization and that’s what sustains us today. We rely on the community for funding and support.”
Over the past years Trunfio has worked with the community to ensure that the House would never run short of enthusiastic community partners and volunteers. From encouraging high school students to join the House’s Youth Advisor Board and inviting young adult professionals to join the Red Shoe Society to accepting enthusiastic volunteers who want to help at the House every once in a while, Trunfio has seen young people standing up to make a positive influence in their own community.
“We always welcome young people who are interested in learning more about the organization,” she said. “You can certainly do online research, but there’s nothing like sending an email and arranging a time to learn more about it.”
To young people looking to make a difference in their community, the seasoned executive director said, “Just take the first step.”