Returning the favor: Local couple gives back to the community


For The Recorder

The phrase "season of giving" is so common now it has almost become a cliche. But year after year, people become their most involved, caring and giving selves during the holiday season. Community events and involvement seem more common, as do opportunities to volunteer and give back to the community.

While everyone deserves credit for their efforts as involved members of the community, there are some people for whom this is just a way of life. Frank and Rita Mucilli of Amsterdam fall into that category. When asked why they think giving back is important, the couple bypass the question as if it doesn't make sense. After growing up in Amsterdam, being married 57 years, and raising their children in the city, the Mucillis see their efforts as a natural part of living in a familiar community.

"The community was good to them," said Frank Mucilli Jr., Frank and Rita's son. "They both came from Italian families that were very involved. That was important to them, because the community had supported them all the years growing up."

Frank Sr. went to Amsterdam High School and worked at The Recorder for 37 years, setting linotype before it was all done on computers. Rita graduated from St. Mary's Institute and worked at St. Mary's Hospital in human resources for 30 years. They have lived in the same house for more than 50 years, raised all five of their children there, and now have eight grandchildren in surrounding schools whose sports games and other events they rarely miss.

When their kids were young, Frank was a Cub Scout leader and a baseball and basketball coach while Rita was a Brownie leader, Cub Scout den mother, and president of the American Legion Auxiliary.

"My father was so active in scouting. You name it he coached it. We had kids at our house all the time," said Frank Jr. "We didn't have a lot, but we had a lot of love. I don't know how many times we had kids over for supper, every night."

But the Mucillis' giving nature extended beyond leadership roles in the community. An interest in weather that started with his career at The Recorder has turned Frank Sr. into Amsterdam's own volunteer weatherman.

"Cousin George was a hermit that used to live up in Saratoga," Frank Sr. said. "He used to come to Amsterdam once a year and used to give 'Cousin George's report.' And he would predict the weather for the area at that time. I got interested in reading his column [in The Recorder], so I got interested in the weather that way."

"He was always interested in weather, even when we first got married," Rita said. "He was always interested and was reading books on weather."

Since then, when he retired, he started looking things up in more detail after Rita bought him a computer and weather equipment. He now uses it daily, waking up at 4:30 a.m. to assemble weather reports for various television and radio stations.

Frank has been a member of the WRGB Weather Watcher's Club, a group of people who send in daily weather readings from their area that run with the weather reports, since its inception 13 years ago. He sends in his weather report four times a day, at 6 a.m., noon, 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., Monday through Friday.

He also has a five minute segment at 6 a.m. on the Bob Cudmore show on WVTL, Monday through Friday. For that, he reports the local weather, the current temperature, the amount of precipitation overnight, and then follows up with what to be careful of while driving, whether its recyclable day and whether he's seen the plows go by yet, if it's a snowy morning.

"He didn't like the temperature they were giving on WVTL," said Rita, because the person supplying it didn't actually live in Amsterdam. "So he called up on the radio ... for a couple of days, and then Bob Cudmore asked him if he'd like to permanently do it."

Saturdays he sends the weather into Swap Shop between 10 and 10:30 a.m. Sundays he takes a break.

And all of this on a volunteer basis.

"He wants to put Amsterdam on the map," said Rita. "He enjoys it, he really does."

"People like to know what the temperature is so ... first thing in the morning, [they] realize how they can dress up," said Frank Sr., his only explanation for why he works so hard for the benefit of others, six days a week.

And, while Frank is monitoring his weather equipment, Rita has her own charitable pursuit, making hats for local charities.

"My sister, she gave me the example," said Rita. "She was a school teacher. She went and crocheted 100 pair of slippers that she donated to the VA hospital for the veterans. I learned by example."

Rita got started when Fownes, a factory that used to exist in Amsterdam's East End, had a campaign called "Caps for Kids." When she saw it advertised, she decided to start making hats, and has been doing so ever since.

This year Rita gave 50 hats to Comfort Zone, a program run by St. Mary's and Trinity Lutheran churches that donates a variety of items to those in need. She also sent 15 to the homeless shelter. In years past, Rita has donated hats to Schoharie County after the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene and to Broadalbin High School, which her grandchildren attended.

"I'm very willing to make them," said Rita, adding that she is only limited by the high cost of the Red Heart yarn she uses exclusively. "I like to give to the needy, first of all. And I like to help out. I enjoy doing it as a pastime. I feel every child should have a hat in the winter. Where I feel there's a need, that's where I donate. That's why every year it's different, wherever I give it to."

According to Rita, they give back because they enjoy it and simply because they are members of the community.

"We've lived here all our lives, and I'm very thankful that we have five wonderful kids and everyone is healthy," she said. "We've got a lot to be thankful for and we feel that we just want to pass on our thanks, and this is our way of doing it."

"They always thought it was important to remember the little guy," said Frank Jr. "When we were younger, we would check in with our parents when we were out. And my mother would say, 'Where are you?' And now the roles have reversed, because my parents are so active. My mother will call me and I'll say, 'Where are you?'"