A Solon councilman and his family have taken a step toward igniting the giving spirit in the city.
Councilman William I. Russo and his wife, Mary, a registered nurse, recently donated $125,000 for artificial turf at the Solon Community Park varsity sports fields. The city will pay the remainder of the total cost estimated at $300,000.
The donation stems from the example he has seen through his involvement with the Solon Benevolent Club, the Solon Italian Club and now recently as board member of the Solon Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Russo, 65, said.
“Barry Chesler and Jim Bialosky, past presidents of the Solon Chamber of Commerce, reinforced in me that it was important to represent the organization you were involved with and do things to benefit others, not to benefit yourself,” Mr. Russo said. “In other words, give back.”
The donation also has special meaning in that Mr. Russo is an avid baseball player and has played on those fields as part of various adult leagues. A pitcher, Mr. Russo currently heads the Greater Cleveland Adult Baseball League.
A fellow player, Brad Cisar, serves as Solon High School’s assistant baseball coach and has regularly brought up the need for the turf.
“I felt it was important to step up and make this donation to make this project a reality before (Cisar) retires from coaching,” Mr. Russo said.
Plans are to begin the work this fall and complete by year’s end in preparation for the spring 2020 baseball season. The Russos made the donation to the Solon Foundation, and City Council accepted that donation at a recent special meeting.
Mr. Russo said eventual plans are to install turf on five fields at the park to allow for baseball, flag football, lacrosse, soccer and softball with minimal maintenance and without having to cancel games due to field conditions. The turf also will enable the grounds crew to do more work throughout the park and other city parks instead of taking care of the rain-soaked baseball fields, he said.
Mr. Russo said it is hoped others will step up for these future needs.
“Another reason I did this was to see if it could spur others to step up and help out,” Mr. Russo said. “The whole idea is giving back to the community.”
Last year, the Russo’s also made a sizable contribution to the Solon Rotary, whose mission is “Service Above Self.”
They are involved with the Cuyahoga County Public Library Foundation, where Mr. Russo has served as treasurer for the past 16 years. Mr. Russo said he and his wife have made sizable contributions to the Warrensville Heights branch of the public library system because that is where Mr. Russo grew up.
“I wanted to make sure the kids growing up in that community had the same level of help and assistance that I did growing up,” Mr. Russo said, adding that reading is the foundation for everything.
A councilman representing Ward 7 for 12 years, Mr. Russo has lived in Solon for 27 years. A certified financial planner, Mr. Russo recently merged his business Securus Financial Strategies with Peak Wealth Solutions. He has owned his business for the past 26 years.
He recently joined the Solon Chamber of Commerce Board and is an active member of the Solon Italian Club.
“I’m just trying to make a difference,” he said.