Weekly Feature



2008-06-04 / Local News

Resident follows his passion

SOMEONE YOU SHOULD KNOW
by ALLISON HANSEN

Sammy Violante Sammy Violante How does a person go from being a successful investment broker to dedicating his life to volunteering with and mentoring youth?

It's a question Sammy Violante, 54, of Amherst, has heard multiple times since he ended his 25-year career as a broker.

Although his job was time consuming, it required him to be positive and self-motivating in order to be successful and it improved his communication skills, he said.

"The measurement of success is all about your personal production," Violante said of his job. "You couldn't really let up because I didn't know where my next paycheck was going to be.

"My whole self-identity, my whole self-esteem, my whole self-worth was tied to being an investment broker," he said.

Eventually, Violante said the job was no longer fun. He said he could no longer handle the 12- to 15-hour days.

"We're not machines," he said, noting that after a health issue affected his productivity and ability to function on a high level, he realized he had to get out of the business.

But after leaving the job, Violante said he had a difficult time deciding what he wanted to do, or could do, with the rest of his life. Then a longtime friend offered a suggestion.

"You have this incredible love," the friend said. "Why don't you give it back now."

Violante started his volunteer work in 2004 after he met Sylvia Nadler, the executive director of Compass House, a shelter in Buffalo for 16- to 20-year-olds who are runaways or homeless.

Individuals who go to Compass House are from difficult domestic backgrounds, said Violante. They do not have mentors or adults to look up to.

Violante goes twice a week to Compass House, volunteering as a mentor. Developing a great relationship with the youth counselors gave Violante an opportunity to gain the trust of the young people there, he said.

In 2006, Nadler awarded Violante that year's Extraordinary Volunteer Service Award to honor his love and dedication to the teens.

"From Compass House, this journey of giving back has grown enormously," he said.

Violante now serves other organizations, such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and St. Gregory Youth Ministry in Amherst. He volunteers as a youth counselor and mentor assistant to disabled and disadvantaged children at Cradle Beach Camp in Angola and is a career life coach for the University at Buffalo School of Management. He is a 1975 graduate of UB.

He also worked with Buffalo Bill, Trent Edwards and former Bill, Thurman Thomas at St. Adalbert's Response to Love Center in Buffalo feeding underprivileged children, he said. Recently, he also joined the Big Brother/Big Sister program and continues to give free motivational speeches to youth groups.

A graduate of Kenmore West High School, he originally wanted to be a teacher or a counselor. People told him there was an oversupply of teachers, there was no money in the field, and he would have to move out of the area, he said. He decided to take his people skills into the business world instead.

Now, Violante is following his passion for working with young people.

"I have now found true happiness and what's truly important in life," he said.

Violante, comparing his work to a MasterCard commercial, said, "What I'm doing today you can't put a price on. This is priceless."

If you have a suggestion for someone to feature in this column, send it to Jessica L. Finch, Amherst Bee, associate editor, P.O. Box 150, Buffalo, NY 14231-0150, or call 204-4917.

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