Keeping volunteerism in family

Marianna Clarizio is following in her grandmother's footsteps by giving back to her community.

She volunteers with numerous organizations, including Mark Keppel Elementary School, the American Cancer Society and Incarnation Church. Her grandmother, who emigrated from Italy, was able to dedicate her time to volunteer activities while raising a family on her own, Clarizio said.

“Even though she was alone with three children in a country she was new in, she had time [to dedicate to others],” she added. “I thought if she could make the time to do that, I could too.”

And make time she did. The Glendale resident began volunteering at the elementary school seven years ago. She originally helped out with the school's kindergarten classes, then got involved with the parent-teacher association and Make Keppel Special, a group that raises money for programs at the school, she said.

Clarizio was president last year.

“We not only raise money for art programs, but whatever the school needs, whether it's murals or school supplies,” she added.

Aside from helping raise money for Mark Keppel's music and arts classes, Clarizio has also chaired the school's holiday shop, co-chaired the harvest festival, helped organize the silent auction dinner and other efforts, Mark Keppel Elementary PTA President Kathy Cuza said.

“She's the go-to person if we need anything,” Cuza said. “I'm the president this year and she's the one I call for questions or help.?.?.? She doesn't need to be asked to do something, that's what's so neat about her. She's so hard-working.”

In order to accomplish everything on her plate, Clarizio must depend on her husband, who rallied up a group of fathers to re-vamp the games for the school carnival, which made a $4,000 profit.

And with the help of Clarizio's mother, children and neighbors, he cooked 500 pounds of pasta, which served more than 400 people, and made more than $11,000 at the school's silent auction, she said.

The Clarizio household serves as a holding ground for different items to be used at school functions, her husband, Andre Clarizio, said in an e-mail.

“You can tell what time of the year it is just by walking into our home,” he said. “Our pool table becomes a wrapping center, board room table, folding and mailing center, a think tank and whatever else you can think of.”

Marianna Clarizio now acts as a liaison between the American Cancer Society and local hospitals and has been the coordinator for the Look and Feel Better program for seven years. The program sends cosmetologists to the homes of cancer patients and provides them with the wigs and makeup tips needed to help them look their best, Marianna Clarizio added.

“When you see someone who's lost her hair and going through something life-threatening, you want to help them go out and not have everybody know that they're undergoing a treatment,” she said.

Marianna Clarizio recalled one woman who wore a hat every day to hide her hair loss and sickness from her child. Buying someone a wig or drawing in their eyebrows can make a world of difference, she added.

“A lot of people can't afford a wig,” Marianna Clarizio said. “It's the last thing on their list. So just to be able to help somebody is a wonderful thing.”

When she's not volunteering, Marianna Clarizio works as a part-time radiation therapist at Glendale Adventist Medical Center. She had now been working with cancer patients for 15 years and has learned more from them than they have from her, she said.

“All my patients have been a blessing,” Marianna Clarizio said. “They taught me about life, about not worrying about the little things. They're fighting for their lives. That's what really matters.”

On top of all her responsibilities, Marianna Clarizio also teaches first-grade catechism at the Church of the Incarnation, volunteers as team mom for her children's Little League and soccer teams and raises 12-year-old Serafina and 10-year-old Angelo.

“She doesn't do it to say, 'look at Marianna,'” Cuza added. “She goes in there and does it with little fanfare and always thanks the people she worked with.”

Her desire for volunteering and focus on her family is inspiring, neighbor Maria Iezza said.

“She never looks for anything in return. She just wants to make people feel comfortable and welcomed,” Iezza added.

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