When he responded to a request for volunteers at the Carnegie Boys and Girls Club in the mid-1980s, little did Carnegie's Lou Trombetta know that it would be the start of a whole new career.
But that's what happened, as Mr. Trombetta advanced from an indoor soccer coach to assistant executive director and athletic program director at the nonprofit Washington Avenue facility. Along with his promotions came increased club programs and participation.
"You're getting paid to be with the children and these are our kids," he said, with emphasis on the word "our."
Now, at age 63 and with nearly 30 years of club work under his belt, including stints at five other local Boys and Girls Clubs, he has stepped down, leaving many people saddened yet grateful for his influence and guidance. He has been one of the leaders at the Carnegie Boys and Girls Club since 2000.
Lou's retirement date was Wednesday.
"It's been a great ride [but] you know it's time to retire when the kids you first had now have their own kids," he said, adding, "I've enjoyed it."
Indeed, Mr. Trombetta seems to possess the right combination of authority and caring to earn the kids' attention and respect.
"Lou is more than an employee at the club; he is an institution. Over the years, he has been a positive influence and a guiding force for so many of the boys and girls in our community," said Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek, who serves on the club's board of directors.
"Lou really is an icon in the community," added another director, Karrianne Moehring, who said Lou persuaded her to send her three children to the club after she met him on the "T" years ago.
With current membership in the 600-800 range, the club offers a wide range of sports activities, as well as crafts and educational experiences for kids 6-18.
There is also a new youth employment program that allows kids to be paid for serving as sports timers and referees.
Some children come to the club directly from school, which means homework must be done first, Mr. Trombetta said.
But there are evening programs, too, as well as a summer camp.
While many club members are from Carnegie, others come from Scott, Green Tree, Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon.
"We reach out to the kids through the sports, but then they have to comply with the educational standards," said club board of directors president Jerry Roach, a former Carnegie resident and club member who grew up with Mr. Trombetta. He established a commercial painting business, then returned to Carnegie years later to give back to the community.
"I can't really say enough about Lou. He's a real steady beacon for our organization. He gains the kids' respect," Mr. Roach said.
Though Mr. Trombetta concedes he's "good at what I do," he gives kudos to the club members' parents.
"The parents here have been 200 percent supportive of what we do with discipline," he said.
A golfer, Mr. Trombetta plans to stay in Carnegie with his wife, Chris, where he promises to "keep an eye on things at all times."
"I don't think I'm going to be bored, but I plan to get involved with Little League," he said.
No replacement for Mr. Trombetta has been announced yet.
Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.