Board Member Q&A: Fred McClendon supports ESCGR because “there are no egos, just purpose”

We recently welcomed a number of new board members to our Easterseals Serving Chicagoland and Greater Rockford (ESCGR) Board. We want to give you a better sense of who they are and why they serve. In this post, we spoke with Fred McClendon who is Senior Vice President and Head of Banking for the Global Family and Private Investment Offices at The Northern Trust Company in Chicago. We spoke with him about why he chose to join the board, the importance of sticking with nonprofit work, and how his family motivates him every day. 

Why did you choose to serve as a board member for Easterseals serving Chicagoland and Greater Rockford?

I worked with Ralph Leslie when he was CFO of the Obama Foundation and he is on the Executive Committee of the Easterseals serving Chicagoland and Greater Rockford Board. Along with Ralph, another good friend, Jason Tyler, told me all about the organization and recommended me as a potential board member. When I met with President and CEO Sara Ray Stoelinga, I knew I wanted to serve. The organization is important and does so much, but what’s really important to me is the passion of the people who run the organization. If they are driven and committed, I am going to be driven and committed. Sara is both of those things, and her staff and the other board members are as well. She made a huge impression on me, and I respect her immensely.

Also, I’ve worked with non-profits for the last ten years of my work life. I know that there are never enough resources to support all of them well and oftentimes, they are all competing for the same pot of money. I know that ESCGR is an incredibly strong organization with a 100-year history who continues to make a difference every day in a very specific area: disability and early learning. I’m confident that my time and commitment is going towards a non-profit that works and continues to evolve to meet the needs of the people they serve. 

What skills do you hope to bring to the Board?

I’m a pragmatic, common sense, down-to-earth person. I’m really good at stepping back and looking at the big picture. I try not to come into a situation with preconceived notions. I like to sit back and really listen. I think that makes me good at reading a room and offering feedback in a group with a lot of different perspectives. I want to encourage our board members to see things a little differently.  I also have a finance background, as do some other board members, and I hope to bring my own finance perspective to the board.

What makes ESCGR special?

I’m very picky about where I volunteer and spend my time. I’ve seen a lot of well-meaning people, including myself, drop in and out of non-profit service and they don’t understand the impact they have when they leave. For example, I volunteered to coach Little League baseball at Cabrini Green, and someone said to me, “These kids are seeing a lot of people like you. You show up. You volunteer. You’re the guy in the suit who comes in from work. You pop into their lives and pop out just as fast. That does them no good.” Over the years, I’ve learned that I don’t want to do anything where I am just popping in and popping out. 

ESCGR is fully invested and committed to disability and early childhood. They’re providing resources, services, and supports on a continuum that have a real, ongoing impact. There are no egos here, just purpose. If I’m going to be involved with something, I want to do it to the fullest extent with an organization who is in for the long haul. ESCGR is that organization.

What’s your “why”? What motivates you when you get up in the morning? 

That’s simple. It’s my family. This year, I will be married for 30 years. I have two daughters: 21 and soon-to-be 17. That’s what I’m about. They motivate me to get up and do the right things, and to live my life in a way that sets an example for them.

What’s a life lesson you’d like to share?

I think it’s important to understand that everyone has their struggles. While everything may look wonderful from the outside, every household or individual has things going on, and there are times in all of our lives where we may need resources and supports. My children have struggled with anxiety recently and I’m fortunate that I have the means to afford the resources they need, like therapy. Not everyone does. This is another reason why organizations like ESCGR are so important.   

Published by Easterseals Serving Chicagoland and Greater Rockford

Easterseals serving Chicagoland and Greater Rockford serves nearly 30,000 clients annually and proudly employs 600+ dedicated professionals in programs across the Chicagoland and Rockford regions of Illinois. Established in 1936, we support children, individuals with disabilities, and their families through two pillars of work: Comprehensive Autism and Behavioral Services and Early Learning and Developmental Services

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