BATAVIA — Pete Zeliff Sr. didn’t have much to say when it came to discussing the accomplishments leading to his Health and Humanitarian Award this year.
In his brief time in front of the podium after receiving a gift for earning the 2022 award from the Jerome Foundation, Zeliff — who is chairman of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) and United Memorial Medical Center boards of directors, among other roles — Zeliff was thankful for the award and talked about being a Batavia native and how good of a place it was in which to grow up.
Zeliff shrugged his shoulders afterward and said he was humbled by the praise he received from those who spoke about him Friday, either in person during the lunch at Terry Hills Restaurant or via video. However, of his community contributions over the years, he succinctly said, “I don’t do it for any of this (recognition) — what I do.”
He has been involved with the annual WNY Aviation Adventure Camp in Batavia and volunteers for Wings Flights of Hope, Veterans Air Lift Command and the Special Olympics Airlift. In addition, he has supported multiple charitable causes in our community, including but not limited to, ARC, Crossroads House, CASA, ARC, GCC, Genesee Cancer Assistance and the Ricky Palermo Foundation.
If Zeliff was reluctant to speak much about his contributions, others were happy to do it for him during Friday’s luncheon.
“Did you know that Peter has flown many children and adults with serious illnesses to various hospitals around the country to get treatments that were not available locally?” GCEDC board member Paul Battaglia said. “From New York City to Florida to Houston, Pete has flown these ‘Angel Flights’ at his own expense. Thanks to Pete’s generosity, these people were able to receive treatments they might otherwise not get.”
With the $33.5 million UMMC/YMCA Healthy Living Campus project, currently under construction, Zeliff has helped to raise almost $15 million and has been on several committees, Battaglia noted.
“In addition to all of this, he has personally contributed more than $2 million,” Battaglia said.
Having served with Zeliff on the GCEDC board for nine years, Battaglia said, he noted the various committees of which Zeliff has been a part.
“I can tell you firsthand that this is a tremendous commitment of time that Pete is investing in an effort to create jobs and improve the economic ‘climate’ of our community,” Battaglia said. “I do not know where the STAMP (Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park) project would be today if it were not for Pete’s expertise in energy and his knowledge of construction. In addition to all of this, Pete serves on the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation, the Genesee County Funding Corporation and the STAMP Water and Sewer corporations.”
One of the last things Battaglia said was that Zeliff has quietly helped many community people with his financial resources.
“In addition, he has invested millions of dollars in business ventures, including the Oakwood Hills Development, The Bootery, Smith’s Great Outdoors store and the Carr’s building project, to name a few,” Battaglia said.
The WNY Aviation Adventure Camp is a week-long overnight camping experience for 10 high school youth in ninth or 10th grade. The purpose of this camp, according to the camp website, is to promote careers in aviation and expose students to the wonder of flight.
“Without Pete and his generosity, this camp would not exist,” said Beth Kemp, camp coordinator. “Pete Zeliff has been involved in every minute of the camp from the inception. He’s at camp every day, from before the campers wake up to after dinner.”
John Riter, a major volunteer with the Healthy Living Campus project, said Zeliff “has been an absolute champion for this project.”
“He has helped us raise millions of dollars, in addition to his personal support. I can’t begin to guess how many hours he has committed to this project,” Riter said.
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