Ric Estrada came to the United States at 7 years old with the outlook that, despite all of the challenges thrown at him, it had all been a blessing. Originally planning to become a priest, Ric had an epiphany while traveling through the South American jungle that took him down a new path, landing him in Chicago working in the nonprofit sector.
Today, Ric is the CEO at Metropolitan Family Services (MFS), an organization helping to improve the lives of families and communities across Chicago and the greater region. Ric’s leadership and ability to rally people behind a unified mission is second to none, and is helping to solve some of the biggest issues in Chicago: education, gun violence, and domestic violence.
The philosophy that Ric employs derives from his “Four E’s.” The Four E’s are a way for MFS to organize the incredible 68 distinct programs designed to help the community. By organizing the programs into 4 themes, Ric has created it much more manageable to pitch the programs to the team and investors, as well as making it easier to speak about, understand, and rally behind the mission.
The 4 E’s are as follows:
- Education – Early childhood development, community schools
- Economic Stability – Helping family members get a job that pays a living wage
- Emotional Wellness – Counseling, behavioral help, mental health provider
- Empowerment – Legal aid, violence reduction program
By organizing the services and programs into these 4 themes, the organization is better equipped to manage their vision, and the path to it for all affiliated parties. MFS is in approximately 60 locations across the Greater Chicagoland Area, with bases in some of Chicago’s most vulnerable areas. MFS team members are local, with boots on the ground and often live in the areas they service, integrated into their local communities. These boots on the ground team members allow MFS to have a close pulse on the challenges, needs, and support that the community needs. This approach facilitates providing unique services and supports different communities’ needs.
This past year, on top of all the baseline work MFS has been doing, Ric’s organization has led the Chicagoland area in hosting vaccination and testing sites, providing rental support, food, and home support services throughout the pandemic. All of this amounted to upwards of $300 million, all put back into the communities hardest hit. This, on top of all the baseline work that the company and staff already have under their responsibility.
The pandemic has been a learning experience for MFS, as it has been for most organizations, but that hasn’t stopped, or even slowed Ric from helping them not only achieve, but surpass their goals. One of the major revenue streams for MFS is through donations, and specifically a yearly, in-person event to celebrate accomplishments and to raise much needed donations. With the pandemic, events like MFS’ yearly donation event were required to be moved to virtual events –– a first for their team. MFS would have to learn how to promote, engage, and host a virtual event, all on the fly. In a normal year, the event would bring in approximately $1 million in donations for MFS to use to help the community.
With uncertainty around the event, the team rallied, initiated a creative, innovative approach, took a fresh look at the content of the event by taking the opportunity to show the stories of the participants and recipients of the umbrella of services MFS provides. The audience and donors embraced it and MFS ended up with a record breaking event!
This type of success was not built overnight. These are the results of years of hard work, foundation setting with the core team, and leadership. Ric has built this DNA throughout the organization by following his core leadership principles.
His sign-off on our call was to leave everyone with his two tips for all aspiring leaders.
First, is to be positive, because positivity radiates across your team and will push your team members to trust you and seek you out for support.
Second is to find a mentor. They can be of any age, industry, or personality. Mentors not only help guide you, but they give you perspective on your path, allowing you to drive forward with confidence .
Watch my full interview with Ric Estrada on our youtube channel here. You can also learn more about Ric Estrada by visiting his LinkedIn page, and about Metropolitan Family Services on their website here.