ELKHART — There isn’t much that can stop Tim Portolese.
Just a few months ago, Portolese was recovering from a major operation on a brain tumor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. In between checking in with doctors and visiting with nurses, he was raising money for Child and Parent Services, or CAPS, from his hospital bed. Portolese started volunteering for the organization eight years ago, and since then, the fundraising events he has been involved in have raised nearly $3 million for CAPS, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing and addressing child abuse in Elkhart County.
“It was a very difficult, odd type of tumor,” said Portolese, who returned to Elkhart about two months ago. “But you know what? I wake up in the morning and I still live in this community, and I’m not going to let things like that keep me down.”
Portolese’s tireless commitment didn’t surprise Jami Stamm, CAPS marketing director.
“That’s just the kind of energy Tim has,” Stamm explained. “We kept on encouraging him to not worry about the fundraising events and just focus on getting better, but I think it was kind of a healing thing for him, and it helped take his mind off of things when he was so far away from family and friends. It was a way for him to stay connected to the community.”
Not long after Portolese was released from the hospital, he was named Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year by Michiana’s chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
“Tim is a real asset to our organization,” said Barbara Dicken, vice president of development and marketing for CAPS. “I’m very sorry for the medical issues, but the other side of that is that he has not taken that as an excuse to sit at home and do nothing. What he has done is thrown himself into the community, and we are very blessed that he has chosen CAPS as one of the primary ways he does that.”
Portolese started out helping with auctions for CAPS, and now he is heading into his third year as a board member for the organization
“The more I learned about CAPS, the more I realized that this is an organization of passion,” he said.
The first auction that Portolese worked on raised slightly more than $300,000, and his favorite fundraiser in the past eight years was known as ElkArt on Parade, a campaign that brought in more than $500,000 to CAPS by selling 30 large elk statues painted by artists from Indiana and four other states. Portolese has even invited donors to his riverfront home in Elkhart for fundraising events, including gourmet dinners with wine from his private cellar.
Portolese has traveled the world and lived in big cities all over the United States, but he said the people of Elkhart County have unparalleled generosity.
“We had a fundraiser out on the front lawn at CAPS, and people were coming up to us who obviously had very little, and they wanted to make a donation to us,” he said. “They would hand over a dollar, and even though it was just a dollar, it was amazing to us because it shows that everybody realizes we need to make a change here, and everybody can make a difference. I’m a big believer in the community.”