For Tony Odierna Jr. of Longmeadow, helping others a way of life
A teacher for 35 years, Tony Odierna Jr.'s latest project is the HERO Program -- which locates, vets and publicizes specific individuals and causes in need of financial help, and brings them together with people and agencies that can help. (Cory White photo)
By The Republican The Republican on March 15, 2017 at 9:42 AM
By Christine White Special to The Republican
For Tony Odierna Jr., community service is a way of life, and he spent much of his 35-year teaching career passing that passion on to his students. Now that he's retired, he continues his commitment to community service.
Odierna said his parents were his inspiration. "They were always so kind," he said. "They inspired me with the way they helped other people. I learned from their generosity."
He grew up in Springfield and attended Classical High School where he played hockey. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Springfield College and a master's degree from the University of Massachusetts.
He taught history, social studies and government for three years at the Thornton Burgess Middle School in Hampden; for five years at Cathedral High School in Springfield, where he also coached hockey; and for 27 years at the Timothy Edwards Middle School in South Windsor, Connecticut.
It was in South Windsor that his passion for community service took on a concrete form. Beginning with a voluntary, informal community service group for his eighth-grade students in the early 1990s, he eventually founded the more formal M.A.G.I.C. Club (Making America Great Involves Commitment).
Members of the club were required to design a community service project and sign a contract to carry it out. Then they followed up with reflections on what they had learned from the project, the challenges they faced in completing it, and what the project taught them about life in America.
Starting up and advising the club garnered Odierna a Hero of Greater Hartford Award in 2001. The club has now become a formal offering at the school.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg of his community service record.
While still in college, he coached girls' softball in Longmeadow and served as chief umpire for the Longmeadow Little League.
He founded the Ann and Tony Odierna Community Service Award for students, which carried a $2,000 prize to the project with the most impact.
He has read to young students in both Springfield and Longmeadow, and volunteered in various capacities at Mount Carmel Academy in Springfield and St. Stanislaus School in Chicopee.
He has volunteered as a play space leader working with children at the Horizons for Homeless Shelter.
He's also collected, improved and donated dozens of children's toys, bikes, scooters and games to charities and needy individuals.
He has supported the Richard Salter Storrs Library in Longmeadow with gifts and donations including most recently the new Book Bike.
He has started a hockey website (tonyohockey.com) to offer instruction in hockey skills and spread the word about the importance of community service.
His latest idea is the H.E.R.O. Program (Helping Everyone Receive Opportunities). It is designed to locate specific individuals or causes in need of monetary assistance, to thoroughly vet those needs, publicize them and provide financial assistance. It's kind of a Toy for Joy fund for everyone.
"It's an idea to alleviate or reduce everyday problems for the needy through action from concerned citizens," he explained, and he cited as examples critical dental difficulties or the need for a handicap ramp. He just needs people and service agencies to get on board.
One of his favorite sayings is: "A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, what type of house I lived in, or the kinds of clothes I wore. But the world may be much different because I was important in the life of a child."
But he still has energy to do more. "Any school that can use my volunteer services, or any charity in need of children's bicycles, scooters, etc., or anyone interested in the H.E.R.O. Program, please contact me at my hockey website," he said.