Some
people have only one or two grandparents they they might get to know in their
lifetime.  I am so fortunate, as I have five grandparents! 
 Together, with their
help, I learned at an early age that I wanted to make a difference by
improving the community in which I would live.  This probably doesn't
sound very unique, as giving back to one's community has been a
popular theme over the past few decades.  However, my grandparents taught
me not just to dream a dream, but they taught me how to turn any dream into a
reality.  Most importantly, they taught me that nothing was
impossible with hard work, savings, tradition, vision and focus. 

 

Ever
since college, I have taken the unique tools they each gave me and I have set
out with that dream in mind — and with one important goal, to make them
proud.  Since that time, while in New York state, I raised $100,000 to
bring together 6,000 people from all over upstate New York to view the NAMES
Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.    I worked with activists across
New York state to protect the environment.  Finally, I helped open one of
the East Coast's largest children's museums. 

 

Since
moving to Pennsylvania,
 I found forever homes for hundreds of abandoned dogs and
cats.  I helped thousands of children, families and adults living with
epilepsy and seizure disorders.  I improved the quality of life of men
living in the city of Philadelphia.  I positively impacted the lives of
hundreds of children living in South Jersey.  Most recently, I would help
thousands of seniors, each year, living in the Delaware Valley — seniors
like my grandparents.

 

In
the spring of 2010, I have moved on to some exciting new adventures, and my
grandmother said, "Everything you have done has been exciting and
meaningful, but this work is just the beginning.  You always think the big
stuff has always come and gone, when it hasn't even begun!"  I think
she is definitely right! 

 

In
honor of my grandparents, and my life's work in their honor, please watch the
digital story about my work and family, created for Philadelphia Senior
Center as part of the award-winning 60th anniversary Campaign.  The DVD,
"60 Years of Stories," featured fourteen stories about members,
clients, staff members, donors and volunteers who have made a difference to one
of America's largest and oldest senior centers.  The narrative to the
story is below.

 

This
website theme and snapshots of my nonprofit work is also in their honor. 
Thank you to all of my grandparents — Babci, Babcia, Nema, Dzadzi
and Dzadzia — for all of your help and inspiration.


Kory's Story 2009 —

Some people have one or two grandparents they get to know in their lifetime.
Some people grow up not knowing their grandparents at all. I was lucky. I had
five grandparents that helped raise me. They shaped the person I am today and
taught me so many valuable skills, traditions and values that are important in
my work, my home and my relationships.

Margaret Bialek, Babci, is a unique woman who is strong, unselfish and capable.
She wants for her grandchildren the very same things that she grew up with
secure jobs, a home, savings, retirement, and security. She will cancel her
cable, or cut you off on the phone to save a dime all so she can have money to
help our family if we need it. She taught me the importance of tradition,
perfection and attention to detail. Christmas wasn't the same if she couldn't
make us mini-cheesecake with Nilla wafers. We couldn't eat at Easter unless it
was blessed the week before at the traditional mass. She also ensured that
recipes for traditional family Polish kruschiki, gumpkie, and perigee were
passed down. 

Matthew Bialek, or Dzadzi, died when I was young, but I remember him like it
was yesterday. If I had to categorize him, I would say he was dedicated to
providing for his family. He worked his whole life to take care of my mom and
aunts, as well as my grandmother. From my perspective, he was a man of few words
from a different decade and time. However, to me, he was the fun one. I
remember when I was little, and my grandmother was cooking or cleaning, he
would sit in this special chair and keep me entertained and out of her hair. We
didn't need toys, games or all the modern things kids have today. We would just
talk, laugh and spend time together. I have fond memories of him which I will
never forget.

Evelyn Aversa, or Nema, always encouraged me to take chances and go after what
makes me happy and she offered unconditional love, pride and support when I
did. Nema encouraged me to become active in the community and to volunteer my
time. For many years, Nema taught Sunday school and volunteered her time at the
local church. I often would go with her to the classes. She made such a
positive difference to hundreds of others. I always said I wanted to help
people, just like her. 

Betty and Ed Rewkowski – Babcia and Dzadzia – taught me that you can do
anything in life that you want to and that you should dream big and make your
dreams come true! 
Every time I see Babcia she offers some encouragement and asks me how I come up
with all of my ideas, have the energy and the time!? The funny thing is that I
think the same of her! Whenever I call or visit, she is out of the house and
off to a meeting, event and helping family members or friends. She has
volunteered her time with Daughters of the American Revolution, Home Bureau,
and the Telephone Pioneers.
 

Babcia doesn't let anything hold her back. She tells a cute little story I
always remember when things get tough. She talks about how she always wanted to
sing, but she wasn't very good. She said to God, please let me at least sing in
church. So every Sunday she joins everyone at church – and sings out loud she
found a way to make it happen. When I want to do something in life and it seems
impossible, I think of this story and realize that I can find a way to make
anything happen. 

Dzadzia too encouraged me to dream big and make my dreams come true. He was a
remarkable man who could get anything done. He was elected to be Common Council
President and he ran for Mayor. I was little, but I remember the campaign
signs, the election parties, the waiting for results. It was because of him
that I later became involved in coordinated election campaigns and got involved
in politics myself. At first, I helped him with a local race he was assisting
on. Then, he helped me to become a committee person. I coordinated regional
campaigns for office of the President of the United States and New York State
Senate. I later moved to Albany. With his encouragement, I ran for committee
seat in the oldest political district in the country and won. Because of his
influence, I worked in the office of two state representatives and I went to
Washington DC as a Congressional Scholar. 

This past Thanksgiving, Dzadzia passed away. I miss him and I will think of him
every time I pick up a newspaper to read about old-style New York politics.

All of my experiences and relationship with my grandparents would shape one of
my life's biggest adventures at the Philadelphia Senior Center. Watch my video
to see how! 

By Kory Michael Aversa

Senior
Development Officer
Philadelphia Senior Center

 

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About Philly Loves Fun

A blog about Philadelphia's fun and unique adventures, arts, events, food and opportunities.

2 responses »

  1. Alice Byrne says:

    You’re so blessed to have 5 grandparents. You’re lucky to live with them and learned from their wit and views in life. Living with the elderly definitely gives us wisdom, cause they frequently imparts us some important knowledge which were derived from their personal experiences. No wonder you’ve grown up as a very responsible man.

  2. Kory Aversa says:

    Hi Alice, Thank you so much for the comment and kind words. I am so fortunate to have so many wonderful grandparents – they were/are so influential in my life. I am also so lucky to have been able to work with and gain wisdom from the thousands of seniors I have worked with. I always wish that young people go more involved with seniors in intergenerational programs — as they are so beneficial for both audiences. Have a great day and thanks again!

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