Written by Christy Hinko and Maria Colello Friday, 06 January 2012 00:00
With the closing of the holiday season, also considered the season of giving, some can honestly say they have volunteered a significant amount of time and energy to those less fortunate then themselves. One local Farmingdale resident and philanthropist, Thomas Gubitosi, can describe himself as a giver; his compassion is laudable.
Gubitosi, a semi-retired stockbroker with a knack for charity, founded the Marie Gubitosi Foundation more than 12 years ago, after the death of his mother.
Inspired by his mother’s spirit of compassion and love for one’s fellow neighbor, Gubitosi has been determined to continue her example, but in his own way. He shared memories of his mother’s goodwill. He said, “She never had a lot of money, but if there was a kid crying somewhere, she would walk over and see how she could help; she always got involved when people needed help and she never asked for anything.”
Each Christmas Gubitosi supports the members and volunteers of the Education and Assistance Corporation (EAC), with a shopping spree for more than 200 disadvantaged foster children on Long Island. He said this year was a record-high of the number of children, ranging in age from 2 to 18, receiving gifts.
He said without the help from EAC also, many of the children would not receive a single gift for Christmas.
Gubitosi explained how his generosity has continued to grow, “The first year [after Marie died], I was just real upset; I was very close to my mother.” He had planned one, single grand expression of charity to help others enjoy their holiday. “It was supposed to be a one-time event, but honestly I just look at these kids every year and I’ve had them come up to me over the years and say, ‘Thank you Mr. Gubitosi, if it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t get anything.’ It’s hard not to continue doing this.”
Originally, he envisioned giving the children a shopping spree at a toy store, but after some persuasion from the EAC, he selected a local store, friendly to both growing teenagers as well as small children.
Target began as the initial site of the shopping extravaganza. Over the years, the Foundation has selected the East Meadow Wal-Mart as the shopping location.
Some children do not even buy presents or gifts for themselves. Many use the money to buy presents for their families and foster siblings. “The majority and grace of all of the children is astonishing. These kids have been through more than most adults and they are the nicest, most inspiring people I will ever meet,” Gubitosi said.
Although he has touched the lives and hearts of so many children and adults on Long Island, Gubitosi humbly insists that his work is no more important than others. “People love to give, except many do not know about all the programs in their area in search and need for volunteers,” he said.
The same volunteers come back every year to assist Gubitosi as the children shop. “That’s why I say that the volunteers and I are selfish. I truly feel that we learn and gain more than the children do. The children thank me, but I am the one thanking them instead. I love doing what I am doing and I know that the volunteers feel the same way,” he said.
A foundation conceived by chance but with growing optimism continues to stand as a symbol of hope and desire. “My only regret,” Gubitosi reflected, “was that my mother was not around to see it all. She would have loved to have been a part of everything.”
Gubitosi said he likes to see his mother mentioned as a part of his ongoing efforts. He joked, “I like to think she’s looking down and looking at me and thinking, ‘At least I did something right’.”
EAC provides a broad array of educational, vocational, counseling and criminal justice services. The organization’s 66 programs protect children, create opportunities for seniors, promote healthy families and communities, empower people through employment and education, and provide alternatives for people with substance abuse and mental health needs. EAC effectively served more than 65,000 people last year. For more information about EAC, visit www.eacinc.org or call 516-539-0150.