Salem Computer Center owner Frank Zamarelli said his father, big Frank, taught him to leave his community a little better than he found it.
His unending practice of that advice, and the philanthropic practices of two other local groups, the Salem High School Alumni Association and the United High School cheerleaders, were recognized recently as outstanding.
The Mahoning-Shenango Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals honored them during the 2012 National Philanthropy Day awards luncheon last month, recognizing Zamarelli and the Salem Computer Center as Outstanding Small Business, the United cheerleading squad as Outstanding Young Philanthropist and SHSAA with Special Recognition for Valley Impact.
For the 2011-2012 United cheerleaders, their efforts focused on helping one individual, former cheerleader and 2008 United graduate Alissa Boyle, who was seriously injured coming to the aid of an accident victim on the side of a Pennsylvania highway. Their Cheers for Alissa campaign, though, not only resulted in much-needed financial assistance to cover some of Boyle's medical expenses, but also brought together the entire United community for a one-day fundraising event.
In the program bio about the cheerleaders, it was noted that "when young people are faced with a great need, it might be easy for them to say that the problem is too large and their resources are too limited to make a difference. But the cheerleading squad at United High School did not focus on the size of the problem. Rather, they focused on what they could do to find a solution."
"We're proud of them," United High School Principal Bill Young said.
He said much like Alissa's positive outlook about what she was facing, "Cheers for Alissa was a positive, uplifting way of letting her know the people in the community were there for her."
With help from cheerleading coaches Renee Congo and Stacey Zines, the cheerleaders put together activities other students would support and came up with a plan the whole community and people in other communities could support. The day-long Cheers for Alissa event included a silent auction, bake sale, face painting, corn hole tournament,, basketball throw, soccer kicking contest and manicures and pedicures provided by a local salon.
Young said they came up with a pretty novel idea and it was an honor for them to be recognized. He said their leadership is to be commended.
"Cheers for Alissa grew to involve the entire community, but it started with the energy and determination of the United cheerleading squad - a great example of young philanthropists," the program bio said.
Salem Community Hospital Charitable Foundation Director LuAnn Haddad nominated both the United cheerleaders and the Salem Computer Center to be recognized for their generosity for the good of others.
For Zamarelli, it's a way of life, not something he said he does for recognition.
"I was flabbergasted," he said when told his business was nominated and then won.
Salem Computer Center will celebrate a big anniversary in June, with 25 years in business.
"That's a long time to be in your community," he said. "I'm grateful for the fact that the community supports me."
He credited the community's support with enabling him to do all he does for charity and for numerous community groups and organizations, often considered the lifeblood of any community.
He doesn't just write checks, either. He volunteers his time and talent, as do his wife Glory and their daughters Taylor and Brittany, to many organizations and events. He's a past president of Salem Rotary Club and past vice president of the Salem High School Alumni Association, another honoree.
The program bio said Zamarelli "has made a commitment to support those grass roots and hometown organizations which meet many local needs and improve the lives of the citizens."
Whether its area students and their school groups or local volunteer fire departments and historical organizations or charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army, they've all benefitted from the philanthropic spirit expressed by the Salem Computer Center and Zamarelli.
"I think it's the least I can do. You have to give something back," Zamarelli said.
The Salem High School Alumni Association gives back by providing graduating high school seniors and those who are in college funding to help them make something of themselves and perhaps come back to the community to give back in return.
Since its founding of a scholarship fund in 1903 with a $1,000 bond, alumni, teachers and friends of the organization have increased the value of the association's endowment to more than $7.8 million, according to the program bio. Last spring alone, SHSAA awarded $283,375 in scholarships to 56 seniors and 13 alumni. As of September, the association had given more than $5.2 million in scholarships.
SHSAA President Dr. Matt Yerkey accepted the Special Recognization for Valley Impact award on the organization's behalf. He's one of those success stories who came back to the community and established a successful practice. A 1982 SHS graduate, he remembered receiving one of those SHSAA awards.
He said SHSAA is the largest endowment of any scholarship fund in the state of Ohio for high schools. He credited the group's success to some very successful and generous donors and to great leadership.
"It was nice to be recognized throughout the valley for what we do," he said about the award.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org