March 2016 Volunteer of the Month
Some volunteers with The ALS Association are notable for being involved for years and even decades. Some have spent so much time with the Greater Philadelphia Chapter that they are synonymous with certain programs or events.
There are also volunteers that stand out right from the start as people who will do anything to help the ALS cause. Each year, the Chapter depends on volunteers of all backgrounds and experiences who make sure that events run smoothly, that ALS families get compassionate care and support, and that the Chapter mission moves forward for the thousands of people who depend on the Chapter every day.
Greg Zarmarian is one of those volunteers who stood out right away. It is easy to stand out by being the loudest person in the room, but Greg is quiet, unimposing, and is just here to do his part, big or small, to help those with ALS. However, it is his quiet, can-do manner that does make him stand out and his many actions within a short period of time have lead the Chapter to name him as the March 2016 Volunteer of the Month.
Most of the people who volunteer with The ALS Association do so because of a direct connection to Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Greg’s connection had more to do with the people that work at the Greater Philadelphia Chapter, namely his friend Jim Pinciotti, who serves at the Chapter’s Executive Director. Prior to working at the Chapter, Jim was in the grocery business and Greg worked at Lehigh Valley Dairy for 25 years, so their relationship was professional. They also shared a value for helping others in need in whatever way they could.
Lehigh Valley Dairy created a golf outing a few years ago to support a local charity. They chose the Make-A-Wish Foundation and everyone felt uplifted by helping children in need. Jim was part of Greg’s golf group and they shared stories about work, charity, and, naturally, the work Jim was doing at The ALS Association.
In 2015, Greg was looking for a new volunteer opportunity. He knew the ALS cause because of his relationship with Jim and through another golf connection. Greg also saw how Jim had relayed information and support to that person with ALS and how it provided comfort to the family. It was clear to Greg that compassion was an important value to The ALS Association and so he felt it would be a perfect fit for his own volunteer goals.
“I know that ALS isn’t contagious, but compassion is, and I like when people are doing the right thing,” said Greg.
When Greg asked Jim how he could help, Jim said “We have a walk coming up, why don’t you join us there?” So, in October, Greg went to the Lehigh Valley Walk to Defeat ALS® and helped set up displays, work at tables as needed, and break things down at the end. He was everywhere and anywhere. That was the first walk for event organizer Jamey Piggott, but Greg helped make it an easier day for him and a happy day for all involved.
The walk teams all enjoy themselves and are excited to see the fundraising totals. Greg noted how fulfilling the walk was for the patients and their families. He saw that people could forget about the problems of ALS and just enjoy themselves for a day. Just as with his time supporting the Make-a-Wish Foundation, he loved being able to have a part in helping others feel good.
After that first experience, Greg looked to help in every way possible. He attended the Greater Philadelphia Walk to Defeat ALS® at Citizens Bank Park, where he did similar work and was amazed by the energy of other volunteers, especially the Widener baseball team. Greg was overwhelmed by the positivity of the ALS families and it just energized him further.
Just a couple weeks later, Greg was helping again, this time assisting with registration at the Annual Luncheon honoring ALS Caregivers. In just a few months of volunteering, Greg melded into the Chapter so well that many people thought he was on staff or that maybe he worked at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, which hosted the event.
With each experience, Greg has become more connected to the ALS cause. As a grandfather himself, he has seen people with ALS interacting with their grandchildren at events and he can identify with them. He knows that, even from the sidelines, he can volunteer and let them focus on being a family for a morning or afternoon.
As the new year began, Greg was already looking for new ways to help. He has joined the efforts to promote the Phillies Phestival and signed up to volunteer at the Hot Chocolate event at Adventure Aquarium. With each new volunteer opportunity, Greg doesn’t know what he will do, but he knows how fulfilling it will be for him.
Said Greg, “If you’re reading this, give volunteering with The ALS Association a try just once, and you’ll be back for good.”
We at The ALS Association are very thankful that Greg gave volunteering a try. People like Greg contribute to the culture of caring every day. When you see Greg at an event, and there is a good chance you will, make sure to say hi. He can’t wait to meet you.