Young Philanthropist Gaal Gets Donations for Victims
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Mahoning County Prosecutor Gina DeGenova says describing Macenzee Gaal as a self-starter is an understatement.
Gaal will be honored with the Outstanding Young Philanthropist Award at the Association of Fundraising Professionals Mahoning-Shenango Chapter’s National Philanthropy Day Awards event on Nov. 16.
DeGenova, who nominated Gaal for the recognition, became acquainted with her about two years ago. Then a junior at South Range High School, Gaal had reached out to DeGenova’s office after seeing a display at the 2021 Canfield Fair promoting a donation drive for victims of domestic violence.
Gaal says the topic hit close to home. A recent personal tragedy combined with the effects of the pandemic took a “huge toll” on her mentally, and she knew people who had been affected by domestic violence.
“I was going through a period in my life that was very difficult. So a way I like to combat this is to help other people,” Gaal says. “I don’t want other people to feel upset or let down. I try to uplift as many people as I can when I’m in a period like this.”
DeGenova, who was chief assistant prosecutor when Gaal reached out to her to help with donations, was impressed by the teenager.
Gaal worked with a business to sponsor a pizza party for the South Range class that collected the most items. The drive she spearheaded resulted in thousands of items being donated.
Adults she worked with initially were skeptical because “it was something new I was bringing to their attention,” Gaal says. But both adults and her peers saw how passionate she was, which encouraged them to help.
“She knew what she wanted to do. She was interested in the cause, and she did everything she could to get involved,” DeGenova says. “It was a tremendous success.”
The following year, Gaal reached out to other schools as well.
“It was a bit easier because I had that precedent set,” she says. “I was able to fully express the lives that would be helped and the passion that I felt for the project. Bringing people’s stories to their attention and explaining exactly what [victims of domestic violence] go through, I feel, is what encouraged [students] to want to be a part of this.”
Donations from Gaal’s 2022 drive were nearly triple those of the previous effort, DeGenova reports. More than 10,000 items were donated, along with more than $1,000 in cash and gift cards.
Gaal is attending Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., where she is on the pre-law track. Her personal experiences fueled her desire to go into law and “most likely become a prosecutor … so I can give a voice to people.”
Pictured at top: Macenzee Gaal helps victims of domestic violence.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.