THE PERENNIAL VOLUNTEER
BY WHITNEY JOSEPH
It is only natural that Glenn Camelio has spent the last two years as executive director of the Humane Society of St. Lucie County. Giving back to the community has been a guiding principle since he was a child.
“Oh, God, my first volunteering I did [as a child] with Boy Scouts, but my first big volunteering was in college. My fraternity adopted a women’s shelter,” he said. “We went to a Catholic charity and asked who could use the most help — where we would make the most impact. The priest [suggested] a women’s shelter. We did work on their building, mentored their kids [and] took them to Disney, to Sea World, had Thanksgiving with them, had Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, we left them in a much better spot than they were in before.”
Those early lessons have lasted a lifetime.
“I’m thankful for what I have and know there are people out there that need help, animals, too,” he said. “I was lucky enough my parents were there for me, and [taught me] it’s the right thing to do.”
Working at the nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter brings a lot of pressure he said, but it’s worth the anxiety because at day’s end he knows he’s made a difference — even if he can’t help every dog, cat or whatever type of critter happens to walk, fly, or slither through the shelter’s doors. “It’s the most stressful job I’ve ever had, but the most rewarding job I’ve ever had,” he said.
With a paid staff of 35 and an army of 50 to 60 active volunteers that can swell up to 150 on a rotating basis, Camelio said the HSSLC works on its call to duty year-round. “Our mission is to ensure that every single animal gets a safe and loving environment, to make sure they have food and are healthy,” Camelio said from his office at 8890 Glades Cut-Off Road in Port St. Lucie. “We’re doing our best to find their best future homes. We make sure every single animal gets a chance.”
That type of dedication is nothing new to the Massachusetts native who moved to Port St. Lucie with his folks and two younger brothers as a teenager in 1986. He explained that like so many others who migrated south, his parents had vacationed in Florida and “fell in love with the quiet area and didn’t want to deal with the snow anymore. [When] they brought myself and my brothers down here, PSL wasn’t on the map.”
Moving was a tremendous change; Camelio’s new city was “quiet, and a lot different than today.” He attended Fort Pierce Central High School when it was still on Edwards Road. That campus has since been razed and a new school campus was built on South 25th Street. He remained in-state after graduation, attending Indian River State College for his AA and then earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida.
Staying in Orlando, Camelio worked for the tennis store Match Point for three years. His parents had owned The Sports Scene, a tennis shop in Stuart, for a decade. He later worked at Just for Feet for eight years, describing it as “Foot Locker on steroids; Foot Lockers tended to be 2,000 square feet while Just for Feet were 40,000 square feet.”
Soon he transferred to Just for Feet’s corporate office in Birmingham, Alabama.
“It was intoxicating,” Camelio said. “It was like a cult for this 20-something-year-old to work in the sporting goods industry. It was a dream come true.”
He eventually partnered with Just for Feet’s owner and founder as a minor investor in a “very small” restaurant chain, Copper Grill Steak and Lobster House, which had locations in Birmingham; Destin, Florida; and Richmond, Virginia.
“They lasted only five years as the primary owner got sick; he had brain cancer. When he passed away the chain broke up,”
Camelio said. “He had created a billion-dollar company and I hopped along to see if he could do it again with restaurants.”
Camelio continued as a restaurateur for a bit. As a young boy, he watched his grandmother “run the largest kitchen in Boston, in South Boston High School. I spent a lot of time there. She served 4,000 meals to kids every day for breakfast and lunch — she was the boss. She was everyone’s Nona.”
He also spent 11 years working for a coffee company and knows his cappuccino and may roast those who bring him a weak cup. His favorite is at Old Florida Coffee Co. in neighboring Fort Pierce.
Camelio returned to Port St. Lucie years ago. He and his wife, Alexis, have a 17-year-old son, Kaden. Of course, they have dogs — three in total. Also as expected, all three [the humans, that is] are avid volunteers.
Camelio serves as president of the Lindsay School of the Arts Board in Fort Pierce. It is “a private day school that’s also a free arts school for kids in the afternoon. It offers digital art, painting, drawing, music, dance, literature, performing arts … for serious students. I’ve been involved for seven years and it’s amazing, their growth.”
This perennial volunteer shared his life’s goal: “To leave something better than what it was, to get involved and improve something when it’s time to turn in the mantle.”
Lives in: Port St. Lucie
Occupation: Executive director for the Humane Society of St. Lucie County; board president for The Lindsay School of the Arts
Family: Wife, Alexis; son, Kaden
Education: Associate of arts degree in business administration, Indian River State College; Bachelor of Arts degree in human resources with a minor in marketing, University of Central Florida
Hobbies: Golf, collecting sports memorabilia [anything Boston-related], watching the Boston Red Sox and Miami Dolphins.
Who inspires me: “My parents. They have been there for everything in mine and my brothers’ lives with no questions asked, with scouting, Little League and through high school. They never missed an opportunity to be there for us. They inspired us to be there for those who needed help — from someone with a flat tire to having the belief in a fledgling nonprofit with a dream.”
Something Most People Do Not Know About Me: “Once upon a time before my hand became arthritic, I strung tennis rackets. I was good enough to string for Wilson at larger tournaments. Also, I played — yes, as big as I am, I covered some serious ground — not today though.”