By Judy Wakefield
---- — It was 44 years ago when a local businessman agreed to help raise money for a new YMCA being built on Haverhill Street.
Enzo Fossella of Enzo’s of Andover, a longtime popular downtown men’s shop now located in Andover Village Square, said he strongly believed in the YMCA’s mission.
That was 1969 when the first fundraising team was formed.
Fast-forward to 2013 and Fossella is still raising money for the YMCA in Andover — specifically its $21 million addition expected to be completed in 2015 — and his support for the organization remains as strong as ever.
“I go way back when I raised money for them. I like the Y because they do so much for all ages, all people. This world needs that,” Fossella said.
On Saturday night, April 27, the Merrimack Valley YMCA will be honored by the Service Club of Andover as the recipient of its Make a Difference Award. Fossella is currently president of the Service Club, which he co-founded in the early 1990s as a vehicle to support programming for youth, especially those with emotional and physical disabilities.
The recognition happens at the Service Club’s annual charity gala and auction at Andover Country Club. The gala aims to raise awareness and money to support developmentally disabled youth and adults. This year, however, the club has decided to use all proceeds to support The One Fund for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
The disabled population is near and dear to the hearts of Service Club members, who organize social events for individuals with special needs every year, including a popular Spring Dance, picnic in The Park and the Special Field Games, which it recently took over from the local Lucent Technologies. The Service Club has 44 members and meets the second Friday of every month at Andover Country Club.
The Service Club has already donated $50,000 to the YMCA’s expansion project, said Fossella, who added its members firmly believe that a larger YMCA is good for the area.
Fossella said the YMCA is especially committed to working with developmentally disabled individuals and the Service Club’s Make A Difference Award recognizes the impact the organization has made as part of its mission to serving the community.
Gary Morelli, chief operating officer at the Merrimack Valley YMCA, said he is “thrilled, happy and honored” to see his organization receive the award.
Currently, there are nine groups working with developmentally disabled youth and adults that participate in YMCA programs, including swimming, basketball and arts and crafts.
The planned expansion, which is expected to break ground this fall, will bring state-of-the-art programming and services for all ages to the YMCA.
“We have served those with special needs for over 40 years. And we will continue to serve them,” Morelli said.
IF YOU GO
What: Service Club of Andover’s Charity Gala and Auction featuring special guest WBZ-TV sports anchor and celebrity Dan Roche and awarding of Make a Difference Award to the Merrimack Valley YMCA
When: Saturday, April 27; cocktails and silent auction, 6 p.m.; dinner, 7 p.m.; live auction, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Andover Country Club
How: Tickets $75. Proceeds will benefit The One Fund for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Visit www.serviceclubofandover.org for more.
Added attraction: In honor of The One Fund, a special auction item up for grabs will be a studio tour for 15 people of WBZ-TV studios in Boston with sportscaster Dan Roche of Andover. Bids can be accepted online.