The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 13, 2013

Person of the Week: Cultivating growth: Rotarian boosts improvements to city, youth

JOHNSTOWN — Donna Gambol and fellow members of the Rotary Club of Johnstown and future Rotarians from the Interact Clubs at Greater Johnstown high school and middle school were busy Oct. 5 beautifying the area.

A crew that included Gambol prepared the park at Haynes and Bedford streets for winter while another group picked up litter from a 2-mile stretch of the Johnstown Expressway.

The next project for Gambol and other Rotarians is the ninth annual Rotary Reverse Raffle Dinner, scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Holiday Inn-Downtown.

The nearly 50 members of the club are inviting the public to join them in their biggest fundraiser of the year. Attendees have a chance to win the top prize of $5,000.

Information and tickets can be obtained by calling Gambol at 262-8091.

The event helps to pay for the many projects that the club tackles throughout the year, said Gambol, a Westmont resident.

In addition to keeping the park well groomed and in flowers, the club again will be providing new books to low-income children during the upcoming Johnstown Halloween Parade.

Another annual  project is distributing dictionaries to every third-grader at each elementary school, both public and private, in Greater Johnstown, Gambol said.

Other projects include providing scholarships to qualified graduating seniors; providing flags for the park at the base of the Inclined Plane; and hosting and sponsoring youth exchange students.

Gambol was president in 2005 when the club started to improve the park, located at one of the gateways to Johnstown.

Gambol took charge of the project, getting funding from various sources and permission from the owner of the property, Lamar, a billboard advertiser.

The funding paid to construct the park and Lamar provided a “Welcome to Johnstown” sign, she said.

Also while she was president, Gambol came up with the idea to hold the Reverse Raffle Dinner. Two club members, Karen Azer, current club president, and Anita Faas, have chaired the event each year and are doing so again this year.

Gambol said she is involved in Rotary because it is one of the best organized service organizations in the world.

The nearly 50 members of the Johnstown club are dedicated to serving others through the various projects, she said.

It is important for people to serve their community in any way that they can, she said.

“I just think the strength of the community is very much defined by the people who volunteer their expertise and service,” she said. “I love the wonderful things in our community, and I think everyone should identify something that is appealing to them and then support it with their time, talent and treasure.”

For her efforts, Gambol, who also is a lector at Our Mother of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church in Westmont, is the Person of the Week.

Azer said that Gambol is one of the most valuable members of the club because of her involvement in many projects.

Azer said she refers to the park as “Donna’s Park,” because Gambol basically takes care of it herself.

There were Rotarians and Interact members helping at the park and cleaning the expressway Oct. 5, but all spring and summer it is Gambol who is weeding and planting and watering flowers at the park, Azer said.

“I think she truly believes in the motto of Rotary, “Service above Self,” Azer said.

Peter Vizza, a Johnstown  councilman, said as a public official and a resident of Johnstown, he really appreciates what Gambol does to enhance a gateway to the city.

“I often see her working by herself to plant flowers and maintain the park,” he said. “She’s a hard worker. The park means a lot to the city.”

Tribune-Democrat editors select a Person of the Week from nominations made by readers. To nominate someone, call 532-5058, 24 hours a day. Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ FrankNews10.

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