Be the Change – Michael Burke: A Believer In Community

Michael Burke, executive director of Shasta Family Justice Center (SFJC), is a strong believer in community. Emphasizing this belief, his 2010 acceptance speech to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors for his SFJC position included Margaret Meade’s quote shown above. “Only through cooperation and dedication can the lives of individuals, families and communities be changed,” Michael adds. An example of this philosophy, SFJC provides co-located services (a multi-disciplinary team of professionals under one roof) to Shasta County victims of family violence.

Michael, while working as a photojournalist for Redding’s Record Searchlight, was drawn to public service when he became a mentor for Shasta Family YMCA PlusONE Mentors Program in 1998. “A journalist has to remain neutral,” he says, “yet I wanted to become more involved.” At PlusONE he mentored a 7-year-old boy, Christopher, who is now 21 and in the Air Force. He and Christopher remain in contact. In 2002, Michael took on the directorship of PlusONE. From there, he became the Market and Media Coordinator at Mercy Medical Center in Redding.

Reading with Jane at the Justice Center.

In 2009, Shasta County received a grant to start a family justice center. The following February, Michael heard Casey Gwinn, president of the National Family Justice Center Alliance, speak with passion about how community can assist in breaking the cycle of family violence. He was intrigued with Casey’s concept of one-stop services for victims of violence. When Michael saw the job announcement for an executive director for the Shasta County program, he applied. “It was an opportunity for a great job that would help me get more involved and give back to our community,” he says.

As the selected candidate, Michael started his job at SFJC on August 1, 2010 in a 6,000-square-foot space on the top floor of the downtown Redding mall with three months of paid rent and $50,000 in the bank. “With a dedicated group of volunteers and partner agencies, we got the Center up within one month,” he recalls. They opened their doors on September 1, 2010, and in the first month served 33 people. During the first two years the Center has seen over 6,700 visitors.

Shortly after opening in September of 2010, US Congressman Wally Herger toured the Shasta Family Justice Center (SFJC).
From left to right: Michael Burke, Congressman Wally Herger, Child Abuse Prevention Coordinating Council Executive Director Betty Futrell and Shasta County District Attorney Crime Victim Assistance Center Program Manager, Angela McClure who was the Project Lead for the SFJC.

Angie Mellis, a victim advocate at SFJC, helped set up the initial program and has seen it grow. “Michael brings passion to whatever project he starts. His drive has accelerated the success of the agency,” she says. Jackie McNerney, guest services assistant, agrees. “He shows enthusiasm and comes to his job with heart.”

Michael’s leadership, the service given by professional staff and volunteers, and the community’s response with donations and support, earned SFJC the Greater Redding Chamber of Commerce’s first Nonprofit of the Year award in June 2012.

As well as bringing passion and dedication to his work at SFJC, Michael brings heart to his professional photography. He began taking photographs when he was in eighth grade. In high school he was yearbook editor and won awards for his work in San Mateo County where he lived. “My camera is my front row ticket to life,” he shares. “It has allowed me to meet presidents, fly in jet planes and helicopters, and share what I see with the world.”

Michael’s favorite genre is photojournalism. “I love to tell stories with my pictures. A picture is a snapshot in time that has the power to change things,” he says. He revealed that photography serves as a form of relaxation and takes him “into a zone,” and he likes the instant results and immediate feedback.

Michael with 9-year-old son Robert

While Michael’s tireless enthusiasm for SFJC and photography bring him richness and joy, the most important part of his life is his family: wife Roxanne, daughters Kelsey (18) and Annelise (15), and son Robert (9).  They enjoy watching movies, hiking, swimming and traveling together. Michael also enjoys motorcycling, dirt biking and serving in community organizations.

Michael brings all of who he is to family and community, and he receives back. “I’m at a point right now where I have a rich life with enough time to do the things that are important to me,” he says. His heartfelt smile shows that this is true.

[sws_blue_box box_size=”580″]The mission of our Be the Change column is to feature a community member from the North State who is actively making a difference in the lives of children and families. If you would like to nominate someone who is making a difference, please write to[/sws_blue_box]

Carolyn Warnemuende
About Carolyn Warnemuende

Author Carolyn Warnemuende has two daughters and five grandchildren, and lives with her husband in Redding. She writes parenting and educational articles, sponsors a school in Uganda, and visits Africa twice a year. She receives great joy in taking daily care of her four-year-old granddaughter who was adopted from Ethiopia.

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