SENECA FALLS — Olan Mack lives by the following words: "If you have it to give, you can be a blessing to somebody else."
It's a motto inspired by his mother, who encouraged the family to be active in church and charity functions, donating clothes and volunteering at food drives. She would give to panhandlers on the street, Mack remembers.
Now, as the new executive director of the Seneca County House of Concern, Mack is a long way from his hometown in the Bronx. But, he said, the human condition is universal.
"I think the human experience, I think that it's common," he said. "The same issues exist in rural communities, too. In some respects, it's comforting, and in some respects it's disheartening. It's just unfortunate, but it is what it is."
Mack, who lives in Syracuse now, took his new post on Oct. 31, replacing former director Rhonda Pollino Jasper. He's worked in nonprofit administration for about 20 years in the central New York area, having served as executive director of Offender Aid and Restoration in Ithaca, the Southside Community Center in Ithaca and the Westcott Community Center in Syracuse.
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Larry Driscoll, chair of the House of Concern's search committee for the new position, said in a release that Mack came to them with great recommendations.
"He will bring leadership and creativity to the Seneca County House of Concern's mission with a deep sense of commitment to the community and those who are less fortunate," Driscoll said. "He has served for many years as executive director at various nonprofits, which gives him a wide range of experience and perspective."
Mack said he is still learning the ropes of the organization going into his third week, but it's kept him at a "pleasurable busy, not a bad sort of busy." As executive director, he oversees the day-to-day operations of the organization, which serves about 450 households per month in the county, mostly through providing food. Besides its food pantry, the House of Concern runs a thrift store and the New Beginnings Boutique in Seneca Falls.
With some upcoming holiday fundraisers on the horizon, such as the Community Thanksgiving Dinner, Mack has his hands full. But his ultimate goal for the organization is keeping it going strong, working to end hunger and homelessness. The House of Concern has helped residents for over 47 years, and Mack said he hopes it will continue for another half century. Eventually, if the funding and resources are there, Mack said he would like the organization to provide additional services.
In his thin amount of free time, Mack likes to ride his motorcycle, do yard work, play with his grandchildren and golf once in awhile. But, he said, getting out of bed and going to work every day makes him happy. It's something he doesn't take for granted, either: He said he always remembers he may be one job away or one illness away from being in the same position as some of his clients.
"I think that helps me to better serve them, to know that either I've been in their shoes, or I'm not very far away from being in their shoes," he said. "Whatever shoes they may be in, they're still human beings. They still deserve dignity. They still deserve respect. If I've been blessed to be in a position to help them, then I should be a blessing to them."