Written by The Business Journal Staff
Kent Karsevar, Executive Director
Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Central Valley
What I do: I am Kent Karsevar, the executive director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Central Valley, Inc. As the executive director, I am responsible for house operations, financial accountability, and ensuring our families have a positive, comfortable experience during their time spent at our house.
Education: BA in communications from Brigham Young University, MA in mass communication from CSU, Fresno and doctorate in educational leadership from CSU, Fresno
Family: My wife, Kathleen is the chief development officer of the EPU Children’s Center and our son Michael is attending graduate school at Loyola Marymount University studying film production, with an emphasis on documentaries.
How did you come to work for the Ronald McDonald House, Kent Karsevar?
I was seeking an opportunity for career growth and I feel very fortunate that I was selected for this position by the board of directors of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Central Valley. The position is a good fit for me as I was also seeking to give back to this community, which has been so good to me and family. The Ronald McDonald House is that place and has become my second home.
What do you teach at Fresno Pacific University and how are you able to juggle your work as executive director with teaching responsibilities?
I teach for the business school of FPU and I enjoy teaching adult learners who have returned to college to complete a degree. I teach classes in ethics, marketing, leadership, etc. It is very rewarding to help those types of students achieve their personal and career goals in attaining higher education. Classes are one night a week and I fit in grading and planning class sessions during evenings and weekends.
What are your responsibilities as the Ronald McDonald House executive director, Kent Karsevar?
I am ultimately responsible for every aspect of the Ronald McDonald House and the experience the families we serve have with us during their stay. This includes safety issues, providing meals, ensuring our income streams are stable and continually looking for new ways to diversify our revenue. Leading our team to help fulfill our mission to serve more families and keep them close during their time of need.
How does working for a nonprofit differ from working in education and for for-profit businesses?
Working for a community benefit organization is not that different from working in higher education. I find similarities in a number of ways. For instance, both entities continually seek to administer “best practices” when approaching the work or learning environment. I can always seek better ways to educate students and we are continually looking for avenues that we can serve our families at the Ronald McDonald House more efficiently. I believe that no matter how well we think we are doing, there is always room for improvement.
How does the Ronald McDonald House mission resonate with you on a personal level?
I really didn’t grasp how fortunate I am to have been chosen for this position until I was well entrenched here. We serve families that are in crisis and facing a situation that they probably didn’t see coming. It is getting cold at night and often times families end up sleeping in their cars so they can stay close to their child. We recently developed a program called “Hotels from the Heart” so we can expand our reach and serve more families. When I hear that we have been able to help a family in dire need and make their difficult circumstances a bit better by providing a meal or a room, it makes me feel that we are making a difference in their lives. And, let me say that I can’t take complete credit for all that we do. The staff of the Ronald McDonald House deserve the real credit as they all are so dedicated to our mission and they are all here for that reason.
What are your current goals, Kent Karsevar for the Ronald McDonald House as the organization continues to serve families of children being treated at Valley Children’s Hospital?
We currently have 18 bedrooms at the Ronald McDonald House and we can have a waiting list of up to 30 families at any given time. There is tremendous need for the services we provide and it is not going away any time soon as Valley Children’s Hospital expands throughout the San Joaquin Valley. The goal of our board of directors, the staff and myself is to be able to expand our services. We continually seek ways to do this. We recently launched our “Happy Wheels Hospitality Cart” and our “Hotels from the Heart” Programs to be able to serve more families until we find ourselves in a position to expand or build another house.
How many families is the Ronald McDonald House able to serve at a time? What does the Ronald McDonald House provide aside from lodging for these families?
Our House is a Home to 18 families every night. Every family unit is different, but average about 40 overnight guests each day. In 2014, Ronald McDonald House opened our Day Room. The Day Room is a place where multiple families at a time can use to take a shower, take a nap, do their laundry, or just step away from a beeping machine and get some rest. Our Day Room has allowed us to serve over 500 families this year alone and over 1,200 families since inception.
Are there any plans for Ronald McDonald House to expand its services in the future?
We are consistently seeking ways to serve more families and expand our services. I encourage staff to come up with ideas as to how we could possibly serve more families and they come to me with concepts quite often. As a matter of fact, that is how our “Hotels from the Heart” program came into being.
What was the best advice you ever received and who did it come from?
I heard once, “You don’t get what you don’t ask for.” It’s really true when one thinks about it. If we don’t advocate for our organizations and ourselves, then who will?
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your career?
First and foremost, I am grateful that my parents have always been so supportive of me and my siblings. Career wise, I was fortunate to have been able to work with strong leaders Dr. John D. Welty, Dr. Sharon Brown-Welty, and Dr. Luz Gonzalez during my tenure at Fresno State, as they exemplified what leadership is all about in my opinion.
What are your roots in the Central Valley?
My family relocated to Clovis during my junior year of high school and I am a proud graduate of Clovis High School. Other than attending BYU in Utah and living in Manhattan Beach for several years upon graduating from BYU, I have spent the majority of my adult life in the Central Valley.
What was your first job? Describe something you learned from that first job.
I had my first job at age 13 pumping gas for the local ARCO station in my neighborhood. I learned the value of work and what it takes to earn a paycheck. I was paid $1 an hour and thought I was very well off for a 13 year-old.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In our spare time, Kathleen and I enjoy traveling, especially to the coast. We also like to attend concerts, participate with local cultural events, support local businesses, see movies, and we are patrons of our local restaurants, as we have so many great food options here in Fresno.