Crusader alumna making a difference in the community
Did you have a chance to read this article about Elaine Russell Reolfi, from the Crusader Class of 1985? Another Crusader alumna who is making a difference in their community!
Elaine Russell Reolfi serves as president and chief executive officer of CommQuest Services.
She also serves on the Stark State College Board of Trustees and is a member of the Sisters of Charity Foundation Board.
"I’m lucky. I grew up with a home, food, education and opportunity. Not everyone has that," she says.
Elaine Russell Reolfi of North Canton admits her family loves dogs and has three Shetland sheepdogs named Eva, Gia and Sophie. She and her husband Michael also have granddogs.
She is the president and chief executive officer of CommQuest Services, a nonprofit organization that provides mental health, addiction recovery and social support services.
After graduating Canton Central Catholic High School, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Malone University in communications and journalism. She would go on to earn an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University and graduate degree from the Executive Development for Global Excellence program at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
Her husband Michael is a professor at the University of Mount Union. Russell Reolfi said that he started as an accountant and a lawyer, but is a teacher at heart. Their children are Aidan, 26, a certified public accountant who is a manager at EY; Rachel, 24, an engineer who is a policy assistant at the White House; and Jonathan, 23, who just graduated from the Parsons School of Design at The New School.
“I began my career in HR at the Ford Motor Co. plant in Canton while I was in college and then went on to work at Aultman,” Russell Reolfi said. “I joined The Timken Co. in 1995 to handle communications for its Asia Pacific and Latin American operations. I went on to lead various aspects of the company’s global communications, brand management and employee engagement activities.”
She has always been active in the community, volunteering and serving on nonprofit boards with a focus on health, education and the underserved. She also served on the boards of national business/trade organizations.
“Today, I’m vice chair of the Stark State College Board of Trustees and a member of the Sisters of Charity Foundation Board," she said. "In my early 50s, I started thinking about making a big career change. After decades making global business my professional work and service to nonprofits my personal work, I reprioritized to be of greater service to our communities. I joined CommQuest Services as CEO in April 2021. I decided that the last part of my career should be spent using everything I know about business to support the sustainability of the social support infrastructure of our communities. It’s probably the hardest job I’ve ever had, and I’m all in!”
Would you share the mission and vision of CommQuest?
When I arrived at CommQuest in 2021, that was my very first question: “What is our purpose?”
We have a broad mission that wraps around people in need to provide care and advocacy for people through three pillars of service: mental health, addiction recovery and social support.
Our vision is to take everything we learn in living our mission every day to build a safe and welcoming community in which people with social, emotional, and addiction issues survive and live their best lives. So, thank you for making that your first question to me because speaking out loud about mental health and addiction helps break the stigma around those diseases and contributes to that vision!
What are your main job duties as president and chief executive officer?
My No. 1 goal is to make sure that both today and in another 100 years, we’re saving lives and helping people live their best lives.
So much is at stake with the success of our mission, so we have a responsibility to make sure we operate soundly. That means working as a team to stay focused on both the best in client care and the best in strategic, financial and operational practices.
I always say that I’m not here to make every decision, but I’m here to make sure every tough decision gets made. We have a diverse team of professionals from different disciplines, backgrounds and life experiences who really know their stuff.
What has surprised you the most working with the Stark County community?
Stark County has always been my base and I’ve always given my time to support the community. At the same time, working a demanding job and raising three kids meant that I didn’t really spend a lot of time socially in the community.
So what surprised me most was when I made this job transition and I found out how many friends I have! People reached out to me to ask how they could help me on that journey and CommQuest in our mission. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. That kindness and support has really touched me.
Another surprise is just how hard community behavioral health is as both a profession and a business. Professionals with doctorates and master’s degrees who can work anywhere choose to serve the most vulnerable among us and deal with the hardest cases with the fewest resources.
We have case managers who make sure people get access to services and even drive clients around in their own cars to make sure that happens. We have staff who take care of clients overnight, on weekends and holidays to make sure their residential care goes smoothly.
We have a whole support team from accountants to maintenance professionals to cooks, and an amazing team of 350 volunteers who are here for the mission. Then on top of doing their jobs, they also buy toiletries and diapers and all sorts of other essential needs for clients who need them.
Some essential services we provide have no reimbursement and rely entirely on donations. This is a tougher business and these are tougher people than I could have imagined, and I’m so proud to be able to contribute as part of this team.
Where do you get your motivation?
I’m lucky. I grew up with a home, food, education and opportunity. Not everyone has that.
When I see the little kids who come with their moms to residential addiction recovery treatment, those little faces inspire me. Their whole lives may have changed because their mom found people who understand addiction is a disease and are there to provide the care to help them through recovery.
My parents set the example my whole life that we all have a duty to others. They were hard-working, frugal people who immigrated to the U.S. and started up a garment lettering store in downtown Canton to build a good life for us.
One day when I was really young, an older man came into the store and sold my dad an ugly little plastic flower. My dad never spent money on things we didn’t need because money was tight, so this was very odd, and I questioned him about it. He said, “That man is using whatever resources he has to better his situation. We need to support that.”
Fifty years later, I still think about that small moment because it really captured the sense of duty to others that my parents had.
Would you share what you think your biggest accomplishment is and why?
My biggest accomplishment in this world is my kids. They’re good human beings and will be making this world a better place long after I'm gone.