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No task too large or too small for Sewickley volunteer with a passion

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Gary Chace, 2012 Sewickley Herald Citizen of the Year, poses for a photo Wednesday, April 3, 2013, while volunteering at Villa St. Joseph in Baden, where he serves as president of the Villa St. Joseph Board of Directors.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Gary Chace, 2012 Sewickley Herald Citizen of the Year, accompanies Villa St. Joseph resident Steveline Janes to mass at the facility's Heritage Hall Wednesday, April 3, 2013. Chace is president of the Villa St. Joseph Board of Directors and regularly volunteers at the Baden facility.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Gary Chace, 2012 Sewickley Herald Citizen of the Year, pauses for a photo with Villa St. Joseph Director of Pastoral Care, Sister Carolyn Wiethorn, at right, and a resident, Sister Dolorosa Kleinman, as he takes Kleinman to mass at the facility's Heritage Hall Wednesday, April 3, 2013. Chace is president of the Villa St. Joseph Board of Directors and a volunteer at the Baden facility.

Gary Chace got a little bit of a culture shock 23 years ago when he moved from the car, bus and subway life of New York, where he worked on Wall Street, to the “walking village” of Sewickley.

But, he said, it was a pleasant shock that led him down a path of volunteerism that he has enjoyed for several decades.

For his efforts as a volunteer with Sweetwater Center for the Arts, Sisters of St. Joseph, St. James Catholic Church and Heritage Valley Health System, Chace has been chosen as Sewickley Herald's 2012 Citizen of the Year.

Chace is known for his volunteerism in the community.

“Gary is the best,” said Michelle Peters, Sweetwater executive director.

“He has been volunteering at Sweetwater for as long as I can remember. In fact, he was awarded our ‘Maggie Setler Volunteer of the Year' in 2011.

“From stuffing envelopes to assisting with setting up for our events to participating in Let the Men Cook, we can always count on Gary to help. We are very grateful to have his support, and I can't think of anyone more deserving of this award.”

Paula Doebler, who sent a nomination letter about Chace for the award, agreed.

“Gary has been known to drop everything at a moment's notice to help with the volunteer efforts of others. There has never been a job too small or too big. His passion and dependability have made him the ‘go-to' person in Sewickley,” she said.

A native of Connecticut, Chace, 74, moved to Glen Osborne with his wife, Janet, and now-grown children, Jonathan and Alyssa, to work at what then was Mellon Bank as senior vice president.

Chace and his wife moved to Edgeworth after Chace retired 10 years ago.

One of the first things Chace said he noticed in Sewickley was Sweetwater Center for the Arts.

“I thought, ‘What a gem to have in a town of this size,'” he said.

It wasn't long before Chace took a few classes, became a volunteer and then was elected to the board of directors. He now serves on the advisory board. He said the most fun he has had at Sweetwater has been with the Let the Men Cook event and Holiday mART, the center's biggest fundraisers, where he has volunteered for more than 20 years.

“The people I work with are so fun and outgoing. I'm the only one who doesn't cook. I take care of the counter and set up and tear down.”

Chace, who has four grandchildren, also helps set up for the center's jazz concerts each February and for special exhibits.

During an especially tough financial period at the center, Chace said, he served on the committee to ensure that Sweetwater stayed in Sewickley.

Not too long after he started volunteering at Sweetwater, he had some unexpected visitors at Mellon Bank.

“My administrative assistant came in my office and said, ‘I don't know what you did, but there are two nuns here to see you.' Then I got a call from Frank. He said he was sending two Sisters of St. Joseph down and told me to help them out,” Chace said with a grin.

He has been helping them ever since.

Chace helped the sisters raise the money they needed to establish Villa St. Joseph in Baden, a 120-bed, long-term care facility, which has served 3,600 people in 16 years. Named the first layperson to serve as president of the board, Chace also helped raise money for a new outpatient rehabilitation facility, building upgrades and the Girls of Hope program, which provides housing for girls facing challenges.

After retirement, Chace said, he wanted to do even more and became a member of the Heritage Valley Health System Board of Directors. He now is treasurer and serves on several committees.

In addition, he continues to volunteer at St. James Catholic Church, where and when he is needed.

“I just enjoy helping out. I never felt like it was an imposition when someone asked me.

“When I look back on my life, I will be able to say that I gave back for the community. I didn't just take from life, but I gave to life, too. And, that gives me great self-satisfaction.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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