Friday, April 10, 2015

Johnstown couple dedicated to helping others

John and Michele Polacek are dedicated to serving the community they love.

John grew up in Johnstown, the son of a steelworker and one of nine children, so the family’s income had far to stretch. Now a successful business leader—he serves as Chief Operating Officer of JWF Defense Systems and JWF Industries—John fondly recalls the volunteers who guided him during the lean years of his childhood in Boy Scouts and at the YMCA. They helped shape his dedication to service today.

For Michelle, her mother inspired her to live by the golden rule. “She would tell me to ‘do to others what you would have them do to you,’ and it’s been a motto for me.”

Michelle focuses her service on Johnstown’s youth, through Girl Scouts and Belmont United Methodist Church. She first became a troop co-leader 12 years ago when her daughter Haleigh was in first grade, and she’s been leading Girl Scouts ever since. She is also the service unit’s cookie manager. At her church, she leads the youth group, serves on the wellness committee and teaches Sunday school.

Michelle is also on the committee for the Chef’s Auction which benefits different local charities every year.

Given Michelle’s dedication to her community, it’s no surprise that service is a focus of her troop of Senior Girl Scouts. “They love that feeling of accomplishment and the confidence they get from helping others,” Michelle adds. Her daughter Cassidy is a member of the troop and, like her parents, always considers how she can help others.

“For her sixteenth birthday, Cassidy only wanted her driver’s permit and to give blood at the Red Cross,” says Michelle.

John has served on many boards, including the Red Cross, Arcadia Theatre, Problem Solutions, Arbutus Park Manor, Veteran Community Initiatives and as the Secretary and Treasurer of the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce. He joins the Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania board of directors in April.

John hopes his service also inspires others to get involved. “If we impact enough people, maybe some of them will go on to help others in the community,” he says.

John and Michelle support each other in managing the many commitments they have to local causes and organizations.

“I support Michelle in all her endeavors,” says John. “Cookie time is cookie time for both of us.”

Michelle laughs, “Sometimes we get a little tired, but it’s all worth it.” 

John and Michelle will be presented with the Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania Community Service Award at the Awards of Distinction dinner in Johnstown on April 20.