The untimely death of his best friend led Max M. DelSignore, the assistant director of the Northern New York Community Foundation, into a career path focused on helping others.
“It was one of those turning points in my life,” said Mr. DelSignore. “The experience made me realize the importance of giving to something greater than yourself.”
His friend, the late Garrett W. Loomis, Sackets Harbor, died in 2010 at the age of 26 from injuries he sustained while fighting a silo fire in the Town of Hounsfield. Both men had graduated from Sackets Harbor Central School in 2001.
At the time of his death, Mr. Loomis was working as a professional firefighter at Fort Drum, and a volunteer firefighter and assistant fire chief for the Sackets Harbor Volunteer Fire Department.
Mr. DelSignore, 32, is part of a group of family and friends of the late Mr. Loomis who helped organize the Garrett W. Loomis Foundation, which raises money each year to support two funds administered by the NNY Community Foundation.
“This has been a way to carry on his legacy,”he said.
Money raised for the Garrett W. Loomis Firefighters Fund is used to sponsor free safety seminars and training. These programs address agricultural or general fire-related emergencies for fire departments throughout Jefferson, Lewis
and St. Lawrence counties.
“His family does not want this to happen to anyone else,” he said.
The Assistant Fire Chief Garrett W. Loomis Memorial Scholarship Fund is also supported by the foundation. The fund awards scholarships annually to a graduating senior from Sackets Harbor Central School.
“This has been a way to carry on his legacy,” Mr. DelSignore said.
In 2013, the Northern New York Community Foundation hired Mr. DelSignore as its coordinator of donor services, a newly created position. He was later appointed the agency’s assistant director.
“Max has all the qualities that position him well for leadership both now and in the future,” wrote Rande S. Richardson, NNY Community Foundation director, in his nomination form. “He takes his north country roots very much to heart and it shows in the way he conducts himself, both professionally and personally.”
Mr. Richardson also noted: “In everything Max does at the community foundation, there is a passion and inner drive and desire to accomplish something greater than himself.”
“He realizes and appreciates the importance of legacy, both for members of the community, but also for him and his family,” Mr. Richardson wrote.
It was his parents, Martin A. and Sharon DelSignore, who “taught me what it means to be selfless and modest, appreciate what you have, and set a good example,” said Mr. DelSignore.
Along with his parents and his aunt, Mr. DelSignore and his wife, Sara, have been involved in fund-raising efforts for the Trisomy 21 Foundation of Northern New York. The nonprofit organization raises money to help expand educational and healthcare opportunities for both children and adults with Down syndrome.
Mr. DelSignore helped to develop a new program within the community foundation called Leadership, Engagement, Access and Direction. The program is designed for young professionals to become more engaged in their community.
“We’re trying to be more inclusive in preparing for the next generation of potential donors,” Mr. DelSignore said.
Members of the LEAD program have been meeting to determine “how we can work together to make the north country a better place, and what we can do to make an impact on the community,” he said.
Mr. DelSignore has helped to manage the community foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Council at Watertown High School, which includes students who make grant recommendations to the foundation’s board of directors.
“Legacy can start at any age, you don’t have to be older to think about what you can do for the community,” Mr. DelSignore said.
Before joining the NNY Community Foundation, Mr. DelSignore was an associate director of annual giving at St. Lawrence University. He also worked for several years as sportswriter and sports copy editor for the Watertown Daily Times, and still does freelance writing for SLAM Magazine, which covers basketball.
— Norah Machia