Glendale philanthropist Cathy Zappala said she works hard to give back to her community because she knows what it is like to grow up in a low-income household, and she knows the struggles many families face on a daily basis. A longtime volunteer and business woman in Glendale, Zappala was among a group of women honored Sept. 22 at the Hilton Glendale for her community leadership during the Women Extraordinaire: Celebrating 20th Anniversary event.
Zappala was one of the top 20 achievers recognized by the family-run Business Life magazine, which began honoring women that display leadership in philanthropy and business in 1990. An additional 19 winners were announced as the top achievers for 2010.
"She's so deserving," said Donna Hekler, Zappala's longtime friend and fellow volunteer. "She's not usually recognized for all that she does with charities. She's a great businesswoman too."
While Zappala said she was excited to be recognized, she said she doesn't volunteer for the purpose of receiving awards, although she has received many throughout the years, including Independent Business Person of the Year, Citizen of the Year and Kiwanian of the Year.
"In my office, you won't see any of my plaques hanging on the wall," she said. "I do these things because it makes me feel good helping people, especially when I'm working with kids at the Salvation Army."
Throughout the last 25 years, Zappala has dedicated countless hours to the Salvation Army in Glendale. When she's not busy running her 28-year-old business, Colonial Escrow, Zappala said she is usually working with the Salvation Army's committees or spending time with children in The Zone—a Salvation Army afterschool program for about 60 kids between the ages of 8 and 14 that teaches children about volunteerism, proper etiquette and the importance of education.
"The children improve their schooling after they come to the program," Zappala said. "They always love me when they see me coming… It's just a great feeling to have that kind of impact in a child's life."
Hekler said Zappala spends most of her time with the Salvation Army, and the children she helps in The Zone are always excited to see her.
"They look forward to her coming to help with projects," Hekler said. "They're absolutely very fond of her."
Zappala has been active on the Salvation Army's advisory board for more than 20 years and has been chairperson twice. She also dedicates a lot of her time toward Salvation Army programs that help formerly abused single mothers and their children at the Nancy Painter Home.
"We train the women," she said. "They either must go to school or work. We help them to get their lives in order again. It's a wonderful program."
Outside of her work with various committees at the Salvation Army, Zappala also volunteers with the Kiwanis Club of Glendale. She helps out at the club's annual Christmas gala and also delivers gift baskets to various groups in the community.
Zappala admits she would like to join more philanthropic groups, but she said she can't find the time in her schedule. But for her, that only means she can devote more time to the groups she is already with – and that's an activity she said she doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.
"I don't see myself slowing down," she said. "I'm always working on a project or doing something. Age is just a state of mind. As long as I keep active, it keeps me young and going strong."