John Dowling: Good to hear it. I want to let you know that you have officially been nominated as Model Citizens Man of the Year for 2021!
Russ Cassata: Sounds great.
John Dowling: Congratulations.
Russ Cassata :This is a great honor. I appreciate that, very humbly.
John Dowling: You’ve done a lot for so many not to mention Model Citizens Magazine itself and it means so much. I think sharing your story is going to inspire a lot of people and that’s part of the hope of this interview is that we inspire a lot of people to actually get involved and to do more for our community.
Russ Cassata: I agree. The Cassata Foundation is just one aspect of everything. I’ve been lucky in life.
John Dowling: Well our readers and fans would like to hear more about that, so let’s get into this interview.
John: I am here with Rob Zabbia, Model Citizen Magazine Man of the Year. Congratulations Robert.
Robert: Thank you very much. It is really an honor. There are a lot of great people involved with this publication.
John: I have to tell you that in all the years that I have been shooting I have quietly been observing you and I haven’t really seen many people do as much for charity as you do. You really are out there all the time, not only financially, but also supporting charities by being there and putting in the effort. What is it that motivated you to get involved in the community?
Robert: When I was growing up my dad was very involved. He worked hard so he couldn’t do everything, but he helped out with Scouts, with baseball, and things like that, my mom was involved with our school as well. So to see my parents always taking time to do all of that, I learned from them early on that community is important.
Then when we lost Brian, everybody wanted to send things to us because we lost our baby, but I didn’t want flowers, or food. So, we gave it some thought and then suggested that people donate to The Columbus Lodge and Sons of Italy because they have a scholarship program. We felt that was a good place for people to donate. That is pretty much where it really started, getting involved with the Columbus Lodge which is a fraternal organization that is very supportive in the community. They do a lot of really good work. Also, being involved with the Chamber of Commerce early on in my Allstate career. After that, I really wanted to step up my efforts and be more hands-on.
John: So, your parents set a great example and that was an inspiration for you. You also just mentioned losing a child, that must have been very challenging.
Robert: Our son Brian was born prematurely at just 20 weeks. There was no chance for survival and so it was a very tough time. I would not want another couple to go through it. Sometimes tragedy like that divides people, but luckily for Joey and I, we stayed strong through it all. We did have to reach out for help because we couldn’t really deal with it. We built some really great friendships through the support group we joined. Some of our closest friends are people that we know from there and still keep in touch with.