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Massapequa's Goodwill 'Ambassador'

Contractor Gary Zaccaro does free renovation for leukemia patient.

Gary Zaccaro has been doing business as a contractor in Massapequa for nearly 20 years. He's also in the business of being a good neighbor.

Zaccaro, the President of Ambassador Home Improvement, may have done his finest work these past few weeks, when he renovated the basement of a Massapequa man who has leukemia and paid for the job himself.

"He's the most kind-hearted person there is for reaching out and doing this," said , who will use the basement as a place to recuperate.

Sopack was diagnosed with the illness in September, but as crushing a blow as it was, the married father of two young boys also has reason to hope. He is scheduled to go into the hospital Monday for a bone marrow transplant.

If all goes well, Sopack, a soft-spoken, unassuming man who grew up in Wantagh, will receive the transplant in a couple of weeks. Then it's a long and complicated road to recovery. Sopack described the procedure as almost like "a second birthday," as the transplant will reboot his body and can even change his blood type.

But it takes a long time to recover.

"After the transplant, I'm going to be immunosuppressed, which means I'll have no immune system for about six months," Sopack said. 

That means he needs a place where he can stay away from germs and infections. Not an easy thing to do when you live in a ranch-style home with only one floor.

Fortunately, Zaccaro came into his life and assumed the work and the $30,000 cost of the renovation.

"Having the space for me to isolate my self from sick children is absolutely mandatory," Sopack said.

For Zaccaro, it meant doing very careful work and keeping dust out of the living area, but it wasn't too disruptive.

"Because it's a basement, it's simply a matter of not walking through the house," he said. "If we were working upstairs, I don't know what I'd be doing. I'd probably have to go through the window."

The contractor also took other precautions such as using metal on the stairs to prevent mold and mildew, Zaccaro takes pride in his work and hopes it will lead to greater things.

"I'm not here for a pat on the back," Zaccaro said. "I'm here because it makes me feel good to do what I'm doing. My goal is to touch a family and hopefully start a domino effect and other people will step up and help other families in need."

Zacarro started out on his own and has been able to build a hugely successful business, but he's also given back to the community in many ways over the last few decades.

He's on the board of and has coached basketball at and baseball for the

He's making life better for a family that's showed remarkable optimism over a difficult period. Sopack was unable to personally attend the birth of his 3-month-old son Christian because he was in the hospital receiving chemotherapy. He was able to witness the birth through Skype.

Despite the illness, Sopack and his wife Natalie, have been able to maintain a positive atmosphere for Christian and this 2-year-old brother Alexander, who smiled and played as the workers did their job in the basement.

"My wife has been a rock," Sopack said. "With two little ones it's very difficult on her. It's stressful. It's a challenge not only to take care of the kids, but also to take care of me."

Natalie Sopack, who has blogged about her husband's illness, says the hardest part is helping her husband and children simultaneously.

"When he's not feeling good it's hard, because I want to give him time, but I also need to care for the children," she said.

Natalie's best friend Tia Beaumont has also gone the extra mile for the family, and played a role in putting Zaccaro together with the Sopacks.

Sopack calls her "an earthly angel," and who's been tireless in working for the family.

"I felt it was my duty as their child’s Godmother to step up and try to alleviate some of the burden that has fallen on them," Beaumont said.

She also had high praise for Zaccaro.

"It really humbles me to know that there are still special people like Gary in this world who are selfless and willing to help others in a time of need," she said.   "He didn’t have to do this, especially in the current state of our economy. "

For his part, Zaccaro hopes he's built something to last.

"It feels great knowing I can do this for them," Zaccaro said. "And I hope that they'll be able to enjoy this for many years to come." 

maria pfirman February 04, 2012 at 04:11 PM
God will bless you Gary for your kindess and I pray for John Sopack's recovery.
Edward Robinson (Editor) February 05, 2012 at 01:19 AM
Amen, Maria.
ro February 05, 2012 at 11:23 AM
thank you Edward for a wonderful article . My son John is so very lucky to have found all his "earthly angels" . A great big thank you to Gary Zaccaro and his helpers for their generosity with their time, materials, and urgency to make this project possible . Gary is definetely one of the "good ones"

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