Harold Rosnick of Chick Rosnick Boxing Club: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit Organization
Know your vision, which is probably the most important foundational element of your venture. Where do you hope your organization will go in the future if you fulfill your mission? What do you want to accomplish — is it to provide funding for a particular pursuit, maybe, or educate people about a particular topic? Is it religious, scientific, social, recreational? Articulate this in a concise “vision statement.”
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Harold L. Rosnick.
Harold L. Rosnick is an attorney and community leader in Connecticut, concentrating his nearly 50 years of practicing law on serious personal injury and wrongful death cases for which he has received many awards and settlements in excess of a million dollars, and for which he has been named one of the “Top Attorneys of Connecticut” in Connecticut Magazine each year since 2010. He is known throughout the legal community for his involvement in precedent-setting motor vehicle accident reconstruction cases involving tractor-trailer trucks and other commercial vehicles.
Attorney Rosnick partnered with his son, Attorney Michael Rosnick, to launch The Chick Rosnick Boxing Club, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit youth program in memory of his father, Hyman “Chick” Rosnick, a lifelong coach, educator, and boxing enthusiast.
Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?
My backstory is really about growing up with my father, Hyman “Chick” Rosnick, who was an extraordinary individual.
My dad was my hero. Besides being a warm and loving family man, he was a five-sport athlete. An avid golfer, he owned a pro shop in nearby Stratford that outfitted thousands of golf players around New England. He and my mom, Tillie, also competed in bridge tournaments around the world. And both of them taught my two brothers and me the lessons of philanthropy and giving back.
From my earliest memories, I recall him living his two passions: kids and sports. Sports and kids.
He always believed that athletics was an invaluable tool to teach life lessons to kids. As far back as 1937, for his Master’s Degree thesis at University of Massachusetts, Chick wrote an outline of his vision for the ideal physical education program that would promote wellbeing throughout the entire community.
For 36 years he implemented that vision as Director of Health and Physical Education at the former Jewish Community Center on Park Avenue in Bridgeport. He trained generations of kids in football, baseball, basketball, swimming, and volleyball. He was a real boxing enthusiast too, and passed along that interest to me and my son, Michael.
He was an unforgettable coach. Everyone loved him! Dad was not a large man, but he was larger than life.
When he retired, the day was declared “Chick Rosnick Day” by the City of Bridgeport. And the Connecticut State Legislature honored him for a lifetime of achievement.
After he passed away The Jewish Community Center established the state-of-the-art “Chick Rosnick Fitness Center” in his name.
My dad was an incredible role model for his family and for his community. His greatest achievement was instilling lessons of good sportsmanship and good character in thousands of kids over his lifetime. He was loved by all those whose lives he touched.
It is in the context of having this great man as a father and grandfather that our nonprofit was created. Michael and I wanted to continue Chick’s legacy of giving kids a brighter future.
Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start or join your non nonprofit?
I’ve been practicing law for close to 50 years and I’m very fortunate that Michael works with me in our firm. We three generations — my father Chick, my son Michael, and me — have always been extremely close.
In the years since dad passed away, both Michael and I were eager to do something to honor his memory. We knew that working with youth in the greater community, especially through athletics, would be the most meaningful. Because he taught us to be boxing enthusiasts like he was, and because we recognized the value it could bring to kids and young adults, we thought we could accomplish a great deal if we were to start a youth program based on boxing.
Now, Chick’s legacy of promoting health, discipline, conditioning, and competition is continued through the new boxing club and gym that bears his name.
Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?
It is well-documented that Connecticut has the highest level of income inequality in the entire country. In other words, we have some of the richest towns in America (like Greenwich) as well as some of the poorest (like Bridgeport). And, while the state also has become more racially and ethnically diverse over time, the population of some towns doesn’t diversify as fast as others.
We know that income inequality has a significant and persistent impact on communities. Lower income means less access to higher education, which prevents people from getting better jobs and moving to neighborhoods with a better quality of life.
When whole communities of kids grow up without the goal and mainstay of education, they often become lower achievers overall. They may lack the motivation, skills and stick-to-it-iveness necessary to become positive, productive and responsible citizens. They may fall prey to harmful influences in their communities.
The Chick Rosnick Boxing Club is a registered gym sanctioned by USA Boxing… and so much more.
Our program not only provides health and sport instruction. Its mission is to provide intervention in many different areas to underprivileged youth in the region, to give them resources and skills that they otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have. Mentors and positive role models help guide them.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
The kinds of values the Chick Rosnick Boxing Club is trying to impart are ones that can be taught in the home, the school, and the church, by parents or guardians, teachers, peers, community leaders, and professionals. What’s needed are the resources: social services and manpower to educate and provide interventions. Modifying the environment by outreach, reducing kids’ exposure to risks like crime and drugs, and providing a buffer against violence and risky behavior are critical. And so is instilling a sense of inner worth and discipline that will continue to motivate and guide individuals throughout their lifetimes.
Every child deserves to learn and grow. Every youth deserves the chance to fulfill potential. Our club offers a safe space filled with positive influences, a safe harbor in a sea of negative outcomes, where kids can be safe, secure, healthy, and strong.
Every child that grows up experiencing the pride of accomplishment — whether it be setting a good example for a younger sibling, finishing high school, going to college, or even competing in a boxing match — is a building block to a better community.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is the process of guiding others, either by modeling, encouraging, or commanding, and having others follow to achieve a goal.
An army general can lead a platoon from a position of authority, simply demanding that his troops follow because they are bound by the rules of the military. Or, a soldier can inspire others to follow by behaving in such a brave and selfless way that others are compelled to do the same.
It can be negative — think of Jim Jones, the American preacher and self-proclaimed Messiah who led his believers into drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. Conversely, think of Mahatma Gandhi, the visionary who modeled non-violent protest against British rule in India and inspired many of the world’s civil rights leaders.
There are all types of leaders with all types of goals. Most of them shine with some sort of charisma. Clearly, for the leader of a non-profit, the hope is that a passionate belief in the importance of a cause, and a desire and willingness to serve, will be the shining example others will want to follow.
Without saying any names, can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far?
The boxing program is open to boys and girls aged four through young adult, from Stratford and surrounding towns, who want to pursue the art of boxing for recreation and conditioning as well as higher competition.
We are definitely producing some success stories.
The kids who are regulars at the Chick Rosnick Boxing Club are like sponges, absorbing the skill sets we’re teaching. We can see them developing, taking responsibility for their actions, becoming dependable, motivated, disciplined in all their endeavors.
And we have several members who have gone on to compete in boxing at the regional, state, and even national level. Without our sponsorship — for travel and accommodations, equipment, etc. — those kids would not have been able to participate.
None of this would be possible without the vision, talent, dedication, and hard work of Martin Chisholm, our gym manager and head coach. He has trained six national champions and dozens of regional and state champs. He is determined to bring out the very best from the young people he encounters.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a nonprofit”. Please share a story or example for each.
The first step is to identify a need. Before launching (and investing time and money), be sure you have assessed the actual need and how best it can be served. Then, there are a number of “housekeeping” tasks involved when starting a nonprofit, such as assigning a name, applying for federal tax exemption, applying for state tax exemption, and so on, consulting with an attorney or accountant when necessary. There are so many decisions you’ll need to make, about governance, drafting bylaws, business and financial planning, costs of operation, appointing directors… and so much more.
Here are other things you have to do:
- Know your vision, which is probably the most important foundational element of your venture. Where do you hope your organization will go in the future if you fulfill your mission? What do you want to accomplish — is it to provide funding for a particular pursuit, maybe, or educate people about a particular topic? Is it religious, scientific, social, recreational? Articulate this in a concise “vision statement.” Our vision statement is: “At the Chick Rosnick Boxing Club we aim to provide young people with the skill-sets necessary to be positive, productive, and responsible citizens within their community.”
- The next thing you need is a mission statement, which defines the overall purpose of an organization. It is not the same as a vision statement. Together, these two statements are critical because they can drive the performance of an organization by giving everyone involved a common purpose. Our mission is “to improve the lives of young people by instilling in them, through the disciplines of boxing and martial arts, the behaviors, attitudes, self-discipline, motivation and character necessary to be competitive and live healthy and responsible lives.”
- It’s important for a nonprofit to identify pillars, that is, fundamental principles or practices. Some of ours are Responsibility, Self-Discipline, and Goal Setting. Here are a few of our others:
-Self-Confidence — Develop the mental fortitude necessary to handle life’s challenges
-Respect — Promote respect for the sport, the opponent, the work, and the body
-Relationship Building — Practice teamwork, sportsmanship, empathy, and sympathy for others
-Commitment — Strengthen the ability to focus on the task and see it through to completion
- Once the values of the organization are clear, the real work begins. It should start with finding the people who help fulfill your mission. These people must be dedicated to the cause and to the community you serve. At the Chick Rosnick Boxing Club we are fortunate to have Martin Chisholm as our fearless leader. Martin is a well-known martial artist, tactical trainer and youth worker. A former marine, he served the State of Connecticut as police department tactical self-defense coordinator. He developed the “Good Reaction” tactical program for the Stratford Police Department, taught martial arts for over twenty years, and ran a youth center for nearly thirty. He also served as the Stratford SWAT team’s instructor for defensive tactics. And, he counseled many children on conflict resolution and substance abuse. So, you can see the value he brings to our organization.
- Plan your marketing and fundraising. Here’s where the creativity can really kick in. How will you fund your services? Will you apply for grants? Hold a banquet, a concert, a tournament? A bake sale, a rummage sale, a book sale? The Chick Rosnick Boxing Club’s first fundraiser was our Black Tie Amateur Boxing Dinner Show, in which young male and female boxers from around the Northeast competed for trophies as well as rankings as sanctioned by USA Boxing. Over 400 people attended. Between the cost of tickets, private and business sponsorships, and advertisements in our program book, we were able to raise a significant amount to benefit the program.
Additionally, we received lots of print and broadcast media coverage and promotion through social media and, of course, word of mouth. All of this is great as it brings attention to our efforts.
Right now, we are working on obtaining government and private grants to expand the types of services and interventions we can offer our youth… everything from upgrades to the facility and gym equipment, to a broad spectrum of professionals coming in to teach ancillary skills like resume building and job hunting.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your nonprofit? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Yes! Our vision of helping underprivileged youth through athletics is one shared by many successful and wonderfully generous athletes such as LeBron James, Russell Wilson, Serena Williams, Eli Manning, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Drew Brees, Tiger Woods, Sugar Ray Leonard…
We would be thrilled beyond words to have any one of these incredible people involved in our work. Imagine how our kids would react to knowing these stars were supporting them? It would be magic.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?
I’m not sure if it’s an actual quote, but the words I’ve been taught to live by, and which I’ve tried to teach my own kids to live by, are these: “Disciplined hard work can make your dreams come true.”
In other words, it’s not enough to dream. There’s no magic wand. Dreams come true when you work hard for them. And it’s not enough to work hard for a little while; you have to stick to it, never giving up on your dream until you realize it. That’s the secret. There’s no such thing as an overnight success…. “overnight” generally means years of consistent hard work.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your mission.
Harold Rosnick of Chick Rosnick Boxing Club: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.