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Couple shares holiday cheer with community

Allio couple shares holiday cheer with community

Like many Akron natives, Mark Allio's fondest Christmas memories include trips to his grandparents' house. There, he, his parents and his four siblings joined 10 aunts and uncles and many more cousins for an Italian feast in his grandparents' basement. "It was the only place everyone could fit," laughed his wife, Shelly.

Shelly's celebrations took place across town in Cuyahoga Falls. There, she and her three siblings would present every aunt, uncle and cousin with giant bottles of perfume or cases of popcorn – "basically anything you could get at Woolworth's" – which they bought with money scrounged up from coat pockets and couch cushions. "The fun was always in the giving, no matter how small the gift," she said.

Food, Friends and Philanthropy
Within those memories are powerful principles that impact all aspects of the Allios' life. Today, the couple enjoys throwing their own celebrations, inviting friends and strangers alike. This year, they fed and entertained patrons of the Sugar Plum Tour, which benefits Akron Community Foundation's Gay Community Endowment Fund. It's one of many charity benefits they host in their Bath Township home.

"It's an opportunity to meet people we haven't met before. There's no such thing as a stranger; it's just a friend we haven't met," Mark said.

With food being such an integral part of all their celebrations, the couple is making sure more Summit County families can share a holiday meal together. For the third straight year, the Mark and Michele Allio Family Fund at Akron Community Foundation will provide a "ton of turkeys," which the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank's partner agencies will distribute to needy families across the area. "If we had our way, we would provide them every day," Mark said.

Turning Tragedy into Charity
Family gatherings were tragically altered in 2011 when Mark's sister Janet died in a car accident. The couple honored her by starting the Allio Memorial Fund. Today, the fund honors the charitable traditions of both Janet and their father, Thomas, who passed away in October, by supporting the community foundation's grantmaking to causes they believed in. 

"Our goal is to alleviate a little bit of the pain other people are going through," Mark said. "It could be clothing, shelter or food." Shelly hopes that, through the fund, future generations of Allios will entertain their tradition of "paying it forward."

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