'Heart of gold': Couple devote themselves to volunteer work

Lance Shearer

“I’m not a soft, squishy guy — I’m the one handling the cash,” said Dennis Pidherny. “Most of the volunteering I do is financially oriented.”

Pidherny’s self-assessment lays out his no-nonsense approach to the volunteer work that has come to define him. For many island organizations, he has worked tirelessly for years to put together fundraising events and programs, and ensure they run smoothly, turning a profit for the non-profit endeavors.

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Pidherny has worked just as assiduously to stay out of the limelight, acting as the consummate back-office facilitator and financial guy, a hallmark of his accounting background and 35 years at Dunn & Bradstreet. The limelight has caught up to him, though, with multiple awards for his tireless efforts.

Pidherny was named Volunteer of the Year by the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce in December, although he was not in town to accept the presentation. Family is paramount to Dennis and his wife Joan, and they were in Virginia with their children and grandchildren.

Pidherny was also awarded Knight of the Year by the San Marco Knights of Columbus for 2018-2019, and Kiwanian of the Year by the local club. In 2018, Dennis and Joan were honored by the Knights of Columbus as Family of the Year.

“That gentleman has a heart of gold. He has been involved in some way in almost every organization,” said chamber executive director Dianna Dohm of Pidherny. “He always volunteers for ‘boots on the ground’ work, like if there are tents or tables to be set up.

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“Do you know what it’s like to coordinate 300 volunteers? He takes on the most difficult jobs, tackles it with enthusiasm, and always makes it better. I kind of idolize Dennis. He really was my volunteer mentor.”

Working right alongside Dennis Pidherny is his wife Joan, and speaking with the couple, he lets her do a lot of the talking.

“I belong to every organization he does,” said Joan. “We’re pretty much of a package deal.”

Organizations to which the Pidhernys contribute their labor include the Kiwanis Club of Marco Island, where Dennis is past president, the NCH Health Care Auxiliary, where he is past president and past treasurer, the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Foundation Board, in which he is a director, the Marco unit of the American Cancer Society, where he serves as logistics chair, and K of C. He was past executive director for Bedtime Bundles.

Joan is past president of the San Marco Columbiettes, volunteer coordinator for the NCH Health Care Auxiliary, and a longtime Kiwanis member.

The couple works on the Fire-Rescue Foundation chili cookoff, the ACS Relay for Life and annual gala, the Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival put on by the Kiwanis and both island Rotary clubs, the Kiwanis and Knights of Columbus car shows, and the recent Kiwanis 5K run.

For the Knights, Pidherny helps coordinate their golf tournament and weekly bingo.

“Right now, I’m putting in six hours every Thursday on bingo, getting ready for the ACS gala in March as well as the Relay, plus the Kiwanis car show in February,” said Dennis. “Joan is busy with NCH and the Columbiettes’ Winter Wonderland dance on January 25.”

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Both natives of New York City — Dennis says Joan “still has a Brooklyn accent” — the two met in 1961, when they both worked for Reuben H Donnelley Corp. Dennis earned an MBA from St. John’s University and retired from Dunn & Bradstreet after serving as chief financial officer for D&B international and other key posts. After retirement, the couple moved to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but left “after three winters where the snow piles were taller than Joan.”

Joan gets credit for finding Marco Island, said Dennis. “When we crossed over that bridge, I said I wanted to live here,” she said. They spend summers in Crozet, Virginia, to be closer to their four grandchildren.

Other than reading, Dennis said “my hobby is my volunteering. No golf, no boating, no fishing.”