Venti Questions: Joe Mangino

As a syndicate for philanthropic entrepreneurs, movers, shakers & changemakers, Volatile would like to introduce “Venti Questions,” a monthly installment highlighting those in the community that are making waves & getting work done. Joe Mangino, the man behind S.T.A.R.T, graciously accepted our invitation to be the first to share his version of philanthropy.

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1. What does philanthropy mean to you?
Philanthropy is generally recognized as a donation of money to a good cause. For me, philanthropy is a donation of something I consider more important than money and that is my time. It’s kindness, compassion, selflessness and seeking to make a difference. It’s a pathological generosity. A persistent need to give time, resources and leadership to inflict positive change.

2. What inspired you to make a difference?
Prior to Super storm Sandy my involvement in the community was limited to being a PTA room dad and coaching whatever sports my daughters wanted to play. The people, many of who were strangers that showed up at my home after the storm to help us gut the house and save what we could save, inspired me. They are the ones who inspired me step up and be a leader. It was overwhelming to see those people at our doorstep ready to help us when we were at our lowest point. The best way for me to repay their generosity was to pay it forward and that’s how S.T.A.R.T. (Stafford Teachers And Residents Together) was formed. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I really enjoyed helping others and by helping others I was also helping myself grow into a better person. Two years later I co-founded the New Jersey Organizing Project when our community’s needs shifted from service needs to direct action to correct a failing state recovery effort.

3. Do you feel a personal responsibility to help others?
I don’t know if it’s a responsibility as much as it’s a commitment I made to be a difference maker in my community. I’ve invested a lot of myself into building a stronger community and I feel my responsibility is getting other people to do the same.

4. What is the source of your passion?
It all starts with my immediate family and rolls into my extended family. I want my girls to learn what it means to give selflessly to others in need and also not to be afraid to ask for help when they need it. I hope they see the value and rewards of stepping up and being a community leader. I want them to step up and embrace a challenge and to not be afraid to fail. When I say extended family I’m talking about my neighbors, friends and other community leaders. There is an amazing collection of talented people with giant hearts of gold in this area that are making a difference and I love the connection and relationships I have with them.

5. What impact would you like to make in the community?
I want a strong, resilient and engaged community. I want a community that is fair for everyone and not just a select few. I want the people of this community to take ownership of it and be involved in the decision-making process. I want them to step up and give back. I want those local organizations that are doing great work to not have to beg for volunteers and donations. I want leaders to come forward and those who want to help to be able to find the groups that they can partner with to make a difference.

6. How long have you been doing this?
S.T.A.R.T. was formed on October 30, 2012, the day after super storm Sandy. The NJOP came together on the 2nd anniversary of Sandy in 2014.

7. Is there/what is the ripple effect?
I hope the ripple effect is that more people get involved in making a difference. I hope those who have leadership skills buried inside of them find an outlet to release their talents. There are so many opportunities for someone to make a difference. It could be with S.T.A.R.T., NJOP, David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation, Jetty Rock Foundation, a local youth sports association and even the PTA. The opportunities are endless.

8. What are your goals and values?
My values are quite simple. Family first followed by a want for clean air, clean water and clean food. Enjoying the simple pleasures that life has to offer such a bike rides, beach time and great friendships. As for my goals, the best way to explain it is to steal a quote from Sandy relief friend Jon Rose of Waves For Water. He says, “Do what you love and help along the way.” When it’s time for me to check out I want to be able to look back and see that I made a difference and had a good time doing it.

9. How do your goals and values reflect what you are doing to give back and make a difference?
You can’t spell community without unity. And you can’t have a strong and vibrant community unless people are unified. My commitment to my community is being a leader when the need arises and being a follower when other local leaders need a hand. Super storm Sandy brought us together and I’m just trying to keep us moving forward. If my community is thriving and happy then I’m happy.

10. What exactly is your end goal and how do you plan on accomplishing this?
The end goal is there is no end. Compassion doesn’t end, charity doesn’t end and kindness doesn’t end. Today it is my turn to lead and make a positive change. If I’m a leader that inspires then some of those people who are following me today will be the leaders of tomorrow. And those leaders will engage and produce more leaders and this will go on and on. Pathological generosity will spread.

11. If someone would like to contribute a donation or lend a hand in this process, how can they do so?
S.T.A.R.T. is always looking for people to join our volunteer team for community events and to assist residents in need. We can be reached at staffordstart@gmail.com. Follow us on Facebook or check our website, website, startnj.org.  The New Jersey Organizing Project is always looking for new members who want to participate in the decision-making processes that affect their everyday lives. I can be reached at jmangino@newjerseyop.org. And follow us on Facebook and our website, newjerseyop.org.  Both organizations are always in need of financial donations.

12. Are you involved in any community partnerships or collaborations?
As a service organization, the mission of S.T.A.R.T. is to participate in activities that empower people, encourage volunteerism and promote civic spirit. One way we like to collaborate is by providing volunteers to other community organization’s fundraising efforts such as the Hop Sauce Festival and the Island Gala. We also partner with the Stafford PTO on events like the family fun night Halloween party and the free throw contest to raise money for children’s programs in Stafford Township. The New Jersey Organizing Project collaborates by using our regional network of people, who are standing up for South Jersey and the shore, and connecting them with other people and organizations that have a similar shared vision for our communities.

13. How do your collaborations coincide with your end goal?
I’m honored to work alongside people who inspire me to step up and be as remarkable as they are like David Caldarella, Melanie Magaziner, Amanda Devecka- Rinear, Dani Corso, Corinne Ruff, the Jetty Rock Foundation crew and the same 15 parents who show up to every PTO event and meeting. Some towns struggle to find one and we are blessed with many.

14. Why do you believe what you’re doing is unique, in comparison to anyone else?
I don’t think what I’m doing is unique. What’s unique is that in our area we are blessed to have many local leaders committed to making a difference.

15. Do you have any advice for those who want to get involved?
Reflect on what your passionate about and then jump in headfirst. Every action no matter how small can have a positive reaction. Do what you can handle. If all you can do is bake cookies for a fundraiser then great, if you take the lead and run the fundraiser great too. What matters is that you made an effort to make a difference.

16. How do you encourage volunteerism?
You have to get people to discover what their self-interest is. What is the cause and effect of them doing something and not doing something going to be. What is going to make them feel good about what they’re doing? Are they doing this for selfish or selfless reasons? Getting them to understand that getting involved is actually really fun and rewarding.

17. How do you think we can motivate our youth to get involved?
First you have to destroy the myth that volunteering is a chore. It’s not just something you do to meet a graduation requirement. It’s more than just pulling weeds or cleaning garbage from an empty lot. You have to point them in the direction of where their self-interest lies. You have to find out what talents and skills they possess and use that to generate excitement for the volunteer project. You have to involve them in the decision making process. They need to be challenged.

18. What would you like to pass on to future generations?
Never say but what can I do? One person can make a world of difference. Trust your gut and remember to have fun along the way.

19. What inspires you to keep paying it forward?
Seeing what we’ve been able to accomplish in the last 3 year is remarkable and I can only imagine what we’ll get done in the next 3 year. Continuing to build relationships with like-minded people. Also I do like the challenge of getting those people who do nothing but complain about a situation to actually get them to take part in finding a real solution. Agitation can be fun.

20. Is there a specific uplifting quote that best exemplifies what you stand for?
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt

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