Softening the world, one orphan at a time

By Linda Leuzzi

Epiphanies come at different times. They can drift through in dreams. Or in thoughts via running, hiking, time spent on a beach.

For Pamela Greene and Mike Dawidziak, their non-profit The Rollstone Foundation, was conjured up over drinks in 2007 at Maxwell’s.

“Our daughter Erin was adopting a young child from Ethiopia who was HIV positive and we helped her raise money for the adoption,” recalled Dawidziak.

“Pam looked at me and said, `we’ll start a foundation and ask our friends for money and give it away.’ It was Easter time and we’d just heard The Gospel of Mark about the three women going to Jesus’s tomb to anoint his body, even though they had no idea who would roll away the stone sealing it. But they didn’t let the large obstacle stop them. Pam always viewed that gospel as the ultimate story of faith. So, she said, `let’s call it The Rollstone Foundation.’”

Greene’s belief was prophetic. Their 16th Annual Save More Gala is taking place Wednesday, May 17 at the Timber Point Country Club. So far, they’ve raised over $1 million in adoption grants and as of this date, 566 orphans with special needs, many from third world countries, have been placed with loving families.

Dawidziak said their first fundraiser was called Save 1, held at the Holbrook Country Club in 2008, which raised an excess of $20,000. “We said, `let’s just start with one child,’” he said. “For a while we were able to give any eligible applicant a grant. But then the demand outstripped our funds.”

Mike Dawidziak and Pam Greene are founders of The Rollstone Foundation which raises funds to help orphans with special needs get adopted. Their Save More Gala is Wednesday, May 17 at the Timber Point Country Club in Great River. FIN/Leuzzi.

Money raised pays for grants covering adoption costs and travel: international adoption costs about $25,000 but Dawidziak added that expenditures pile up so that a minimum of $40,000 is typically needed due to travel frequency and other necessities. 

“I think there is a very compelling story here,” said Dawidziak. “Most of these children don’t have a shot at quality of life and these adoptive parents are making the difference between life and death. They also use funds from personal savings,” Dawidziak added.

Dawidziak is founder of Strategic Planning Systems, Inc. He’s a political consultant (you’ll see him on News 12 a lot) and conducts polling. Greene is a part-time Babylon Town Assistant Attorney and has a law practice. The couple are married and live in Bayport.

Besides contracting HIV, these orphans are born with Down Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy, are blind, or have experienced extreme poverty which severely affects their small bodies.

There are no Rollstone salaries, there is no headquarters, so all the money raised goes towards adopting families. And it’s all done by volunteers.

“Pam and I started the charity,” Dawidziak said. “But now 13 people, all busy professionals, run it.”

As for the gala fundraiser, “it’s like planning a wedding every year,” Greene laughed. “We start in January; we’re always looking for donations. Michael spends an enormous amount of time to keep up the contact list.” For the 2023 event, 2,000 invitations were sent out.

“We have a committee. Board members Andrea Casey helps collect all the auction items and does the set up. Dotty Bagnato drops off the baskets she wins all year long,” she gave as examples.

The event is a warm affair, with past and present adoptees and their families present. This year, the Marquez Family from Rowlett, Texas, who adopted four orphans from China and are the recipients of two Rollstone grants, will be honored along with supporter Rich D’Andrea. Speeches and presentations are short, past and present officials and friends re-connect and greet each other. Hugs and affectionate exchanges are the norm, including embracing the adoptees. Last year, 240 people attended.

Who are among the children adoptees this year? Dawidziak brought out a folder. One was of an 8-year-old orphan from India, her mother was murdered, her father was in jail and she was rescued from a child trafficker. Two children are from Haiti suffering from epileptic seizures and other health issues. One 8-year-old had burns all over her body from Nigeria.

Dawidziak and Greene are amazingly Zen; you’d want them as neighbors or family members. Both have experienced life challenges but chose in this phase of their lives to devote more time to charities. Dawidziak has worked for several presidents and their campaigns including Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2002 and by then had experienced amazing success, along with a great wife and family but made a promise to himself.

“I realized I hadn’t given enough back,” he said. “It wasn’t bargaining, but I promised myself that whatever time I have on this Earth, I’d follow this path, `To those more have been given, more is expected.’”

Greene’s former husband died suddenly of a devastating heart attack shattering her for a while when she worked as an Islip Town Councilwoman. Her turn towards service work was stirred earlier by a Martin Luther King breakfast in the 1990’s at the Windwatch Hyatt. “I remember hearing from the speaker, `there’s a train coming, there’s a seat for everyone, and in the end, it’s not about how much money you made or what you accumulated but `did you feed the hungry, did you house the homeless, did you clothe the naked?’”

Both are active Sayville Rotarians and involved with Perpetual Help Ministries aiding Father John Amoah, former associate pastor of Our Lady of the Snow in Blue Point, build schools in Ghana. (They hold fundraisers at their home.) Dawidziak is also involved with Halo Missions a medical mission non-profit that helps people in Ghana and El Salvador. A former board member of Splashes of Hope, he is a lector at Our Lady of the Snow and conducts Bible classes.

“I always felt you have a duty to give back and we were and are lucky to be able to do that,” Greene said.

“Many people don’t know how,” Dawidziak added. “So we put a very visible `how’ in front of them.”

For more information, click on