Mari and Ed Rossi are well known throughout Scotts Valley and beyond for their generosity, whether providing free meals to disadvantaged students, dropping Christmas gifts off at the Rebele Family Center or offering scholarships for the Boys and Girls Club.
Recently, the couple has fallen on hard times and now needs the community support they once provided. The Rossi’s may be forced to relocate from their home during Ed’s treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma if they can’t pay off their lease.
Joanne Guzman, a friend of the Rossis and local business owner, offered to start a GoFundMe when she learned of their troubles.
“Mari immediately said ‘no.’ I wasn’t surprised; she is a giver, and people who are givers usually aren’t able to easily accept help,” Guzman said.
After some thought, Mari reconsidered, although she “still feels weird about the GoFundMe.”
“I don’t want to take people’s money,” she said. “We’ve been giving for so many years, and this feels like what I donate to, not what people donate to for me.”
The account, “Our Local Heroes Need Our Help,” went live on Jan. 5 and has already raised more than $16,000 of the $45,000 needed to keep the Rossi’s in their current home. The Guzmans also plan to host a fundraiser at Bruno’s Bar and Grill for the Rossi’s when Covid-19 restrictions loosen.
Guzman recalls when she first met the Rossis gathering Christmas gifts for families in the Rebele Shelter.
“Mari was busy going around to every station to make sure each family had all of the things the children and parents asked for. Not just a few of the items on their Christmas list, but every single item they asked for,” she said. “And she wanted them to have more. There were gift cards for groceries, clothes, and restaurants …. I walked up to Mari and asked where I could help; she told me to wait and disappeared for a moment. Then she came back carrying a gift bag for me to say thank you. I was surprised that she’d even thought of the helpers in her generosity.”
Throughout their time in Scotts Valley, the philanthropic couple have donated ten of thousands to many causes such as the Boys and Girls Club, the Senior Center, Twin Lakes Church and School, the Fallen Officer’s Foundation, the Special Olympics, Young Life, the Rebele Family Shelter, the Scotts Valley Dare program, the Moose Lodge, Meals on Wheels, the Scotts Valley Kiwanis Club, Scotts Valley Recreation, The Scotts Valley Education Foundation, Music in Skypark and numerous local family owned businesses.
“So many of my friends have said, ‘Well, if you hadn’t given all of your money away to all these causes, you wouldn’t be in this situation,’ and I told them, ‘I wouldn’t change a thing. I did what was right.’ I don’t feel bad about that,” Mari said.
Hardship, much like what they currently face, inspired their philanthropy. In 1997 Mari suffered a brain aneurysm in her sleep. After months in a coma on life support, she awoke and relearned to walk, talk, and eat again.
“That’s why I don’t waste a day and try to do everything that I can,” she said. “I would still be doing it if I could, but our lives just collapsed when this happened.”
Now Mari spends her days taking care of her mother with Alzheimer’s and Ed as he begins treatment for his cancer.
“This will be a tough week,” she said. “He starts heavy duty chemo and [doctors will] take bone marrow tests on Wednesday. They’re moving really aggressively to try and save him. I’m really glad we have such wonderful doctors, but it’s really scary. He’s already pretty sick and the chemo is going to make him a lot sicker. It would be nice to be able to stay in our house.”
Mari said she looks forward to Ed’s recovery.
“When we get back on our feet, we will continue to keep doing the work we’ve been doing,” she said.
Until then, she said she’s proud of the community for stepping up in their place.
“It makes me happy to see everyone coming together to support each other right now. I am so moved by the community that’s stepping up for us,” she said. “It’s amazing and humbling.”
Donate to the GoFundMe for the Rossis at gofundme.com/f/our-local-heroes-need-our-help.