When Theodore S. Rusinoff, CFP, was a kid, his mom was always baking. But the treats usually weren’t for him.
“She was making things for the funeral group at church or for a family at school going through a hard time,” remembered the 11-year MDRT member from Stow, Ohio. “There were regular moments when I could smell amazing things in the kitchen, and they were not going to make their way to a table I was sitting at.”
It showed Rusinoff the world was bigger than himself, and it was important to serve others. That perspective has stayed with him as he has dedicated himself to volunteer work, serving on the boards of charities and now in his new role as the 2019 MDRT Foundation President.
In fact, Rusinoff, who has been in the financial services profession for 27 years and works with property-casualty agencies to assist business owners, became involved with the MDRT Foundation in 2001 before he was even an MDRT member.
This happened because the Foundation had a donor-advised platform and needed a registered principal’s perspective. So he also attended Annual Meetings before becoming a member, working at the MDRT Foundation booth and answering questions about the Global Gift Fund.
As a result of his origins on the Foundation side, Rusinoff said he sees MDRT differently.
“I think a lot of who we are at MDRT is represented by the Foundation,” he said. “Some say that if the members are the heart, the Foundation is the soul.”
What does that mean in concrete terms? It means, for example, seeing members working shoulder-to-shoulder in the sweltering June heat of New Orleans, Louisiana, to help rebuild homes damaged in Hurricane Katrina. Or lending a helping hand to the many organizations the Foundation supports around the world, fighting hunger, human trafficking, insufficient medical care and much more.
“One of the things we’ve been spending a lot of time on recently is being impactful wherever MDRT is,” Rusinoff said. “So when there’s an MDRT Day anywhere in the world, whenever possible we want the MDRT Foundation to be providing a grant to support whatever that community need is for MDRT Day.”
Rusinoff couldn’t be more involved himself. As a kid, he founded a youth group at his church and served as a mentor for business programs at his high school after graduating. He also volunteered with numerous organizations, including the American Cancer Society. “Wherever somebody needed help, I was typically going and helping,” Rusinoff said.
More recently, he is the incoming president elect of the Northeastern Ohio chapter board of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; chairman of the board of the Camp Ho Mita Koda Foundation (the oldest camp in the world for children with Type 1 diabetes); and the chairman of the board for Trinity Farm Therapeutic Equestrian Center, a riding facility that partners with the Special Olympics.
This involvement stems from his connections with his two daughters, one of whom has Type 1 diabetes, and the other who is passionate about horses and working with people with special needs.
And for one of those organizations, Rusinoff is not just a board member. He was instrumental in saving the entire place.
When the organization that was running Camp Ho Mita Koda went bankrupt, Rusinoff created a new foundation to take over the camp. He recruited other families who also believed in the mission of the camp, which was founded in 1929 by one of the doctors who helped refine the formula for insulin to be usable in humans.
Changing the focus to love really shifts how you talk about it or the way you would help someone understand what the Foundation really does.
“The history and legacy of this camp is so rich. The more I learned about it, the more I was shocked that individuals were willing to let it close,” he said. “If you talk to my daughter for five minutes and ask what she likes most about the camp, she’s going to tell you it’s the only place on the planet she feels normal.
“The first couple of times I processed that, it’s hard to do without breaking into tears — she only spends a couple weeks a year there, and the rest of the time she feels not normal. But that’s all the more reason to keep the camp open, so these kids can feel normal as much as they can.”
Rusinoff feels a similar fulfillment through his work with the MDRT Foundation, which he said will likely award more grants than ever before this year, and probably even more next year.
Rusinoff recalls when 2013 MDRT President D. Scott Brennan, a 35-year MDRT member from South Bend, Indiana, emphasized the importance of the need to translate charity-related materials for worldwide distribution. “Love doesn’t need a translator,” Brennan said.
“It changed the way I was thinking about it,” Rusinoff said, noting that in some cultures the idea of charity is seen very negatively. “Changing the focus to love really shifts how you talk about it or the way you would help someone understand what the Foundation really does.”