February Volunteer of the Month
Maybe we are biased here at The ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter. But, Al Slipakoff is more than a “regular” volunteer. For some, volunteering offers the chance to “try out” a new career without making a long-term commitment. Or maybe it’s a great way to gain experience in a new field. Al’s 25-year involvement with the Chapter is neither of these – rather it’s the story of a humble, uber-dedicated man who never gives up and never says, “NO,” whatever the job may be. Al already had a busy career when he came onboard and his experience in managing his supermarkets, events and staff bodes well in all that he has contributed. He gives his heart and soul to the Chapter - That’s volunteering the “Al Slipakoff way.”
Al began his tenure with the Chapter because his company, Thriftway Shop n Bag, sponsored a Phillies event. He continues, “Thriftway became a Phillies Phestival Sponsor and so many special memories come to mind. It was really neat with our kids growing up – my daughter, Stacey, played High School softball so it was special being around the Phillies and meeting Schilling (Curt) was a highpoint for her,” he reminisces. “One time I was at the Phestival’s Live Auction and met Shonda Schilling, Curt’s wife, in the elevator. I told her, “My son, BJ, keeps bidding on items, but – Curt keeps overbidding us!” Shonda replied,”I’ll be sure to tell my husband about that!”
“At the Phestival, I saw the positive way the Chapter cared for ALS families and realized that there was a need for more of this compassion,” notes Al. “Thriftway became the lead sponsor of Curt’s Pitch for ALS and a title sponsor of the Curt Schilling Golf Outing. Because of my position in the food industry, I was able to secure other sponsors, which ultimately lead to the success of these events,” says Al modestly. Securing sponsors is no easy task!
Twenty-five years later, he is still giving back, but now, it’s entirely on his own time. Since he sold his Thriftway stores, Al continues to volunteer in his “retirement” at countless Chapter events and is joined at many of them by his amazing wife, Kelly, our 2012 Volunteer of the Year. “Kelly became involved when she saw how much good I was doing. Chapter President Ellyn Phillips and Nurse Gail Houseman thought she would be a perfect fit for the Visiting Volunteer Program and she certainly is,” he recalls.
Kelly plays the straight-woman to Al’s light-hearted jokes. The couple, who met at Penn Fruit, at 43rd and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia, have been married for 44 years and there is rarely a dull moment. Today, their children, Stacey and BJ, and their spouses and children continue the Slipakoff way of volunteering and attend the Chapter’s Holiday Party, Greater Philadelphia Walk to Defeat ALS® and Hot Chocolate.
On a December Sunday morning, Al and the Slipakoff family are among the first to arrive at the Chapter’s Holiday Party. “My family looks forward to coming every year,” he beams. Here Al thrives in his role as the escort of the Phillie Phanatic, a role he often assumes. “Of all the things I’ve done the thing I enjoy the most is being the Phanatic Handler – it brings such joy to all the patients and just seeing the smiles on their faces lights up the room,” he states. Al and his family stay to the end of the party, late into the afternoon, talking with ALS families and taking part in the festivities. While they thoroughly enjoy the event, they never stop engaging and helping to make this an unforgettable day for all in attendance.
Although Al served on the Chapter’s Board of Directors for ten years, his involvement is so great, that we need to check the Chapter letterhead twice to see that his name no longer appears. He is so active in the Chapter, that everyone just assumes he carries the Board title. Not needed in his case – Al Slipakoff volunteers for no accolades or titles – he volunteers because he likes to “do good.”
Volunteering is part of his fabric. He is and active Big Brother and his “Little Brother,” Elliott, whom he nurtured for nearly 17 years, has been joining the family at Chapter events since he was a little kid. Additionally, Al serves on the Board of Directors of the Main Line Meals on Wheels which delivers nutritious meals to the homebound.
This month, Al is gearing up for Hot Chocolate, which he and his family support. Then, the Phestival, which he personally sponsors every year, then The Greater Philadelphia Walk to Defeat ALS® where his “Green Team” is always among the top fundraisers. Once again, Al and Kelly arrive early with their donation of hundreds of Philly soft pretzels for the participants and bright green balloons decorate their table. And he doesn’t come alone. His close friends attend, along with many other staunch supporters, including his family.
We asked Al, “If you could choose just one thing to do as an ALS volunteer, what would it be?”
His reply – “I would like to turn out the light in the office – and say we cured it – it’s all done!”
Al Slipakoff, we at the Chapter share your sentiments. The collective energy of the ALS community is ignited by people like you. THANK YOU!
Al with The Green Team at the Walk to Defeat ALS. They never miss the walk!