When his son and daughter grew up and left home, Michael Oliveri contemplated his next move as an empty nester.
"I wanted to get involved with something to do with children; I wanted to have an impact on somebody's life," said Oliveri, vice president of procurement at NBTY and chairman of the company's charitable initiative, Helping Hands.
He said he heard that Big Brothers Big Sisters -- one of the many nonprofit organizations supported by Helping Hands -- had a shortage of big brothers. A year ago, Oliveri, who lives in Levittown, became a big brother to Juan Carlos, 11, who lives with his grandparents in Nassau County. Oliveri meets with Juan at least once or twice a week.
"There were simple things he'd never done," said Oliveri, 58, "like going to a 7-Eleven to get a Slurpee; learning to play baseball. He loves sports. I wanted to expose him to as many sports as I could, and prepare him, as he gets older, to strive to go to college."
Oliveri said his desire to give back is part of his Catholic faith and a tradition in his family and at NBTY.
"One of the things that attracted me to NBTY is that it has a family culture where everybody cares about each other," he said. "My parents were very charitable people. Giving service to others is what I was brought up with."
Oliveri has been with NBTY for 35 years. He said he encourages his children to volunteer, keeping in mind a philosophy instilled in him by his parents and based on a tenet of American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson: The definition of success is to know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
"I've always been drawn to health and wellness," Oliveri said. "It's the reason I love to come to work every day. Yes, we do a lot of business, but there's a balance. You're making an impact in the business world but also on Long Island, where we all live."
Long Islanders can help NBTY's charitable arm, Helping Hands, in its efforts to assist communities here and around the world by making cash donations. Checks may be made payable to NBTY Helping Hands and sent to:
2100 Smithtown Ave.,
Ronkonkoma, NY 11779
Attn: Marialice Dunphy
To contact NBTY, email NBTYHelpinghands@nbty.com or visit the company online at nbtyhelpinghands.com.
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Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the largest on Long Island and one of the largest in the nation, conducts its charitable outreach through Heart of Bethpage, a nonprofit established in 2002 with a focus on housing, education, hunger relief, pediatric health care, and economic and community development. Heart of Bethpage also sponsors fundraising walks and runs, offers college scholarships and recently contributed $100,000 to United Way of Long Island's Military Assistance Project. Contact: Robert Suarez, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the past decade, hundreds of at-risk teenagers have found a haven with the New York Youth Club, a nonprofit based in Hauppauge that motivates youth to learn job and leadership skills and other fundamentals as alternatives to gangs and crime. The club is funded through an anonymous founder, but it accepts contributions for scholarships; help from math and English tutors; and furniture and appliances. Contact: Nathan Jackson, 631-524-5222.
For more volunteer information and opportunities, contact the Long Island Volunteer Center at 516-564-5482; longislandvolunteercenter.org.