This is our fifth and final installment of stories on the 2010 Genesee County Chamber of Commerce awards winners. The awards will be presented at a dinner tomorrow evening at the Clarion Hotel.
Among the many good works that 2010 Geneseean of the Year Joe Teresi has been active in over the years is the Challenger Sports program.
His involvement began when a local woman came to him with an idea for a program serving kids with special needs, giving them a chance to play sports, but wondering how to insure those activities. As vice president of Tompkins Insurance, he might have the answer.
His plan, rather than burdening the upstart program with its own policy, was to get it under the umbrella of the YMCA.
With that insight, one of Genesee County's most enduring and endearing community activities was born.
Teresi said that seeing the joy on the faces of the kids in the Challenger program is reward enough for the volunteer work that he does, but he’s had to find the best way to balance nonprofit work with his career.
“Sometimes, I’m able to mix the two like with the Challenger Sports,” he said.
But other times, Teresi just donates his extra time to a cause he feels is worthy.
“Being able to give an organization 100 percent of my effort is great,” he explained. “But one thing about volunteering is sometimes the same thing gets old and when that happens, you’re ready to move on to the next challenge.”
Teresi has been an officer and director on the Genesee and Wyoming counties YMCA board and his knowledge of the organization was crucial when he helped found Challenger Sports.
According to Teresi, a lot of things in his life have led him toward volunteerism.
“It’s been instilled in me -- – probably through my parents, high school at Notre Dame where they make community service a big part, and also through my company here,” Teresi said as he sat in his office at Tompkins Insurance.
“We get so much from the community that we make it a big point for all of our employees to give back to the communities where we live and serve – both with some money if they can, but more importantly with their time and effort.”
But Teresi doesn’t volunteer his time just because it’s encouraged at work.
“It’s the smiles,” he said.
“For Christmas dinner this year we served over 300 people and probably over 100 of them were kids…seeing the smiles on their faces when they got not only a good meal, but when they received their present and had a taste of Christmas that they might not have had a full taste of before.”
Teresi worked with the Lions Club of Batavia for years to make a free Christmas dinner possible to those who might need it. He explained that his whole family gets involved and it’s a special time for each one of them.
“The Lions Club does a lot of good for the community that goes unnoticed and it was really my beginning of giving back as an adult,” Teresi said.
He thanked Rocco Della Penna for introducing him to the Lions Club, and the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce for choosing to honor him this year -- along with Rick Mancuso and Shelly Fallitico for nominating him – especially because being named Geneseean of the Year came as a surprise.
“I was in shock and awe,” he admitted.
“Then I realized that it would be a great thing to be recognized for some of the work over the past few years, but there are many other people who do good work that often go unnoticed."