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Giving Back: ‘It only seems right’

June 26, 2017

If there was any one favorite project that Bernie Izzo loved working on through volunteering, it would have to be the “gaga pit” at Daniel.

Local volunteer Bernie Izzo enjoys finding time to give back to the community through United Way of Northeast Florida. Credit: Photo provided by Bernie Izzo

He said after that event he told his wife he enjoyed the experience.

“That first project was one of our GE Community Days, and we moved pallets full of food and laundry detergent for a downtown food bank,” he said. “[My wife] helped, too, and we both really liked it and wanted to do more.”

Now, he’s involved with United Way volunteer projects that range from spreading mulch to moving furniture for a RealSense project — and also jumping in to stain picnic tables and build gaga pits; anything that’s needed.

Jumping in to help reflects the energy that Izzo’s parents put into raising their children in Schenectady, N.Y. Working two and three jobs to make ends meet, both parents approached life with a drive to do everything they could to help their family. Izzo spent most of his life there before moving to Jacksonville a few years ago for work.

“My parents always made sure we had everything we wanted, but we knew at an early age that there were a lot of people in life who didn’t have everything they needed,” said Izzo. “My dad was in the Veteran’s Hospital for the first 11 years of my life, which was pretty traumatic for me.”

Izzo’s father was injured during World War II and, when being carried back on a stretcher, a bomb went off. Later, his father worked as a laborer, a mechanic — whatever it took to support his family.

“But I would never say my dad struggled,” Izzo said. “He was the strongest man I knew ’til later in life.”

At GE Aviation, Izzo makes sure that parts produced at the plant here in Jacksonville find their way to plants around the country. In addition, he’s also volunteered as an Achievers for Life mentor and, for many years, served as United Way’s GE Aviation/Unison campaign chair.

“We’re very fortunate,” he said. “There are a lot of people [in need] in this town and in this country and it only seems right to give back.”