Howard Stern fans nationwide know Gary Dell’Abate as the shock jock’s stalwart executive producer. Yet in and around Greenwich, where he makes his home with his wife Mary, Dell’Abate, 60, has a second identity: as a tireless philanthropist and activist. His efforts are a natural outgrowth of his affection for his adopted hometown— “We’re going on twenty-seven years,” he says. “I’ve taken to this community.”
Dell’Abate began volunteering as soon as he moved to Greenwich. “People would hit me up, [saying], ‘Hey, can you donate some- thing to our charity?’ or ‘Hey, would you host our charity event?’” he recalls. “I’m like the go-to auctioneer. I’ve done [an event for the social services agency] Kids in Crisis like five years.” He also serves as the auctioneer at an annual benefit for Operation Smile, hosts the annual fundraiser for the Arch Street teen center, and for years helped emcee the Greenwich Town Party. Fans of the Greenwich Wine + Food Festival have also spotted him during the Friday evening festivities, bestowing a gold medal on a distinguished chef. “Within reason, if people ask me to help out, I generally will,” he says, modestly.
He is also humble when speaking about his remarkable tenure with Stern. Dell’Abate began his time with the DJ at WNBC as “a glorified intern—it was a hundred and fifty dollars a week in 1984,” he says (a sum so small, even then, that one full paycheck each month went towards transportation). “I was really scraping by, but I did it for a year and I loved it. And then we went to K-ROCK and I’ve been with it ever since. So I’m in my thirty-seventh year now producing. It’s a little nutty, I know!”
Another of his passions is the board of the Greenwich Sports and Recreation Department, which he has served on for a decade and currently co-chairs. “We do a lot, but the thing that I’m most excited about that we really worked on this year, that’s getting a lot of visibility, is we’re rebuilding the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center,” he says. “It’s a struggle to get things done in this town because nothing goes fast, but we actually got the architec- tural designs approved, and with any luck we’re going to break ground this January.”
These activities aside, Dell’Abate still finds time to be involved in the Emily Catherine Fedorko Foundation, which promotes boating and water sports safety awareness and is named after a local girl who tragically died in a boating accident. The Fedorkos, he explains, “were literally our next-door neighbors at the first house we ever lived in, so they’ve been our best friends since we moved up here.” Since Emily’s death, Dell’Abate and others involved in the charity have started a program for boater education, given out free, high-end life vests to many locals, and most recently provided funds to refurbish a chimes building at Tod’s Point.
So what motivates Dell’Abate (who also is involved in Lifebeat, an NYC-based AIDS charity) to balance a busy, high profile radio career with his numerous philanthropic commitments? The example set by his mother, who was involved in charities supporting cancer and cerebral palsy treatment when he was growing up.