David Finelli has a lot to be thankful for: a successful construction company, a reputation as one of the most trusted builders on Long Beach Island, and a happy, healthy family. It would be easy to take these things for granted, but Finelli has spent the past few years channeling his gratitude into various philanthropic causes—making him one of the more successful advocates for local nonprofits, albeit one who prefers to lend his support quietly.
Sitting in his office in Ship Bottom, he is deferential when discussing his contributions, but is effusive in praise for the causes he cares most deeply about. And one thing is certain—he’s hoping that those beachgoers flocking to the island every summer might consider giving back to the community that’s home to so many of their happy memories.
David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation – Finelli was introduced to the founder of the foundation, David Caldarella, six years ago. DDBC is a nonprofit that raises funds to provide financial assistance, wellness services, and hope to families affected by cancer diagnosis, primarily in New Jersey. At the time, Finelli was struggling with the death of his best friend from cancer, and found inspiration in Caldarella’s empathetic approach to supporting families and patients. “They’ve touched so many lives locally,” Finelli says. “Watching our friend pass, we know it’s such an emotional time that you don’t want to think about little things—and sometimes people need help paying the rent at home, simple things like getting food or medicine. Over 1,000 families have received assistance from the foundation, and it’s truly a place with heart.” Finelli is so enthusiastic, that he recently joined the Board of Advisors of the foundation, and is sponsoring their first annual Summer Soiree on August 10 at the Sea Shell Resort and Beach Club. Visit davidsdreamandbelieve.org to purchase tickets or make a donation.
Lighthouse Christian Academy – “One of the causes that is closest to my heart is Lighthouse Christian Academy, a school in Manahawkin,” Finelli notes. “My kids go there, but that’s not the only reason why I support it. It’s just a beautiful place, and there’s so much love that comes from that place, which is really focused on educating thoughtful, kind future leaders.” Finelli is passionate about his faith, and credits the school with helping to foster that same spirit amongst its students. “To see children enjoying praying, establishing their foundation in God, and being taught good moral values is just great for the entire community,” he explains. Still, LCA has suffered from the same decrease in enrollment that many other private, religious schools have experienced throughout the years. “They can always use a lot of help and support; every time I go I just see the tireless efforts of the staff and inspiring to be a part of it.” Learn more at lca-nj.org.
Hope for Liberia—Long Beach Island might be some 4,500 miles and an ocean apart from Monrovia, but when Finelli connected with a young man from south Jersey who had escaped the country’s horrific civil war as a child, he was struck by his inspiring story. Eli Gbayee had experienced unimaginable tragedy before seeking refuge in the United States with his mother, where he quickly learned English and expressed a desire to return to Liberia to give back. During his first trip, he was devastated to witness children walking barefoot for miles to collect water, developing painful cuts and infections as a result. He began raising money Stateside to provide children with basic footwear, a simple act of kindness that has a ripple effect on their health and economic opportunity. Their efforts have since expanded to include increasing access to health services and clean drinking water, and Finelli remains inspired by Gbayee’s dedication to his home country, spreading the word across LBI whenever he can. To learn ore and to donate, visit www.hope-for-liberia.org.