Port resident John Belanich has been chosen as the 2018 Citizen of the Year by the Community Chest for his many contributions to the Port Washington community. The Community Chest’s Citizen of the Year Award recognizes “a lifetime of outstanding volunteer service on behalf of the citizens of Port Washington” and has been awarded annually since 1969.
“It’s surprising,” said Belanich. “I thought all the work I did was fairly quiet and then somebody blabbed it. I’m willing to do it and a lot of people have urged me to do it, but if it didn’t happen, it would have been OK. My family is all very happy about it.”
Belanich is a more than 60-year Port Washington resident who exemplifies the Community Chest’s motto, “The People of Port Helping the People of Port.” He served on the board of Littig House Community Center for 15 years and was its chair from 1997 to 2002. He advanced the Littig House mission on many fronts throughout his 20 years on the board and was a voice for the Harbor Homes and Cow Bay communities.
“At some point someone asked to get on Community Chest board,” said Belanich. “I went out and interviewed other agencies to find out who to help with funds.”
In the 1990s and through 2003, he also served as a board member, officer and member of the executive committee of the Community Chest. Devoted to helping all Community Chest grantees, Belanich volunteered for several of them including Twin Pines and Community Action Council in addition to his Community Chest board service.
But Belanich’s longest and most meaningful commitment has been his person-to-person service to individuals in need through his work with the Port Washington conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, located at St. Peter of Alcantara Church, since the early 1970s.
“I was raised a Catholic and did all the church things, but then I decided I should be acting my Christianity out rather than just going to services,” said Belanich, explaining why he started working with the St. Vincent de Paul Society. “I needed to physically go out and help people. I realized it was really what I needed to do.”
Belanich said that not many know of the Port Washington conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society because the volunteers keep their work quiet, never publicly saying who they are working with because they work with Port locals. Through the conference, Belanich provides help to this day to Port Washington residents who are in need financially and medically.
“It’s an ongoing thing,” said Belanich. “People who find themselves stuck and don’t know what the next step is come to us, but people usually come to us when they are deeply in trouble like when they have five months rent due, they lost their job and don’t know where they are going to get food. We’ve worked with some people with long-term illnesses. We’ve stayed with them, making sure they went to their doctors and had someone to talk to because when people get in these situations, they shut down. We can go in and tell them this is workable.”
Belanich will be honored at a ceremony to be held on Monday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m., at the Port Washington Public Library, in the Lapham Room. The Citizen of the Year ceremony and reception are free, and all members of the community are invited to attend.
To honor Belanich and to raise money for its grantee organizations, the Community Chest prepares a journal and invites community members to support the journal. For more information about the event, or to RSVP, contact the Community Chest at 516-767-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.