“I hope at the end of the day we have made Andrew as proud of us as we are of him!”
Those words, spoken by Dawn Ziegler, vice president of the NEPA Community Health Care board of directors, marked the official grand opening of the group’s fourth health center serving rural communities of NEPA. The Andrew C. Mazza Memorial Health Center offers accessible, quality primary care, psychiatry, medical assistance with addiction treatments, and behavioral health services, with dental care to be added once renovations of that part of the building are completed.
The official grand opening of the facility, held on May 19, was a bittersweet occasion for many in attendance. The centers bear the name of a former township resident, 23-year-old Andrew Mazza, who died as the result of an auto accident in February 2016. Andrew was a passenger in a car that went down an embankment and overturned in a creek. Andrew held another passenger in the car up in an air pocket, allowing her to survive until first responders arrived.
Andrew’s courageous final act, says Ms. Ziegler, is indicative of the kind of man he was. Her words, printed on the memorial plaque unveiled in the reception area of the health center, state “…he was the smile when you didn’t have your own, the extra set of hands when you didn’t have enough, the shoulder you could lean on, and the company you were always happy to have.” In other words, if Andrew was someone’s friend, he was the one who was there when friendship was needed most.
That spirit of generosity is what drives Andrew’s family and friends to continue his legacy of kindness and caring through the Andrew Mazza Foundation. The foundation was created in 2016 to honor his memory, to support various causes that were close to Andrew's heart, and to continue his legacy as a hero to all. To fulfill that mission, Ms. Ziegler proposed building a health center to serve Andrew’s community, which as a rural area was lacking in a health care facility.
Ms. Ziegler’s dual role as a member of the board of directors of NEPA Community Health Care, an organization that aims to bring access to affordable primary care to rural communities in Lackawanna and Susquehanna Counties, and as the founder of the nonprofit Andrew Mazza Foundation, led her to the idea of building the center. Fundraising through various methods, including an annual chicken barbeque and gifts from several generous private donors, raised over $90,000, about 60% of the cost of the center, towards establishing the health care facility.
At the dedication, NEPA Community Health Care CEO Mary Weatherall expressed gratitude and admiration for those who “had the ability to turn such a deep, deep pain and tragedy into joy” by organizing and following through on the fundraising for the center. “This was truly a labor of love. The community saw a need and answered, and after all of the pomp and ceremony and celebration, the heroes are our providers that come in every day,” added Ms. Weatherall, acknowledging the employees of the health center for their dedication in caring for members of the community.
Ms. Ziegler also spoke at the dedication, thanking everyone who played a role in the creation of the health center. “Thanks to those who supported us at fundraisers, volunteers, donors, friends of Andrew, family members. I’ve honestly never seen such a devoted group of friends anywhere, ever,” she remarked.
Phillip Mazza, Andrew’s father, was also present at the grand opening event. He said, “It’s very humbling. I think Andrew would be surprised and humbled as well.” He added, “It started as a dream and became a reality, and will serve the community well for years to come.”
A congratulatory certificate from Pennsylvania State Representative Jonathan Fritz was presented to the center by a member of his staff, Richard Suraci. Mr. Suraci was also one of the first responders on the scene of the accident that tragic night when Andrew lost his life.
After congratulating those gathered for their roles in helping to get the health center established, he spoke emotionally about that night. “We tried our best. Everyone from Clifford and the surrounding communities tried our best. I just want you to know we tried,” he said. On that touching note, the formal dedication concluded, but Andrew’s legacy will live on as the center that bears his name serves the people of the community he loved, and as the foundation that bears his name continues to honor his memory through acts of kindness.
The Andrew C. Mazza Memorial Health Center occupies a large building was formerly a dance hall and roller rink but that sat empty and unused for decades. It was renovated under the supervision of general contractor Stan Wierzbicki to become a beautiful, modern facility with exam rooms, treatment rooms, and office space. The building is still undergoing renovation to accommodate additional exam rooms and a dental facility, which should be up and running in about a year. The Andrew C. Mazza Memorial Health Center is located at 127 Route 106, Greenfield Township.