Working to Live
For Paul Mancinone, It’s All About Priorities
Paul Mancinone likes to show off his Southwest Airlines photo.
It’s a snapshot of him during a plane ride, standing alongside a flight attendant who’s wearing an apron emblazoned with the Ronald McDonald House logo. For this Longmeadow-based CPA and tax attorney — and longtime board member with the children’s charity — it was like meeting a kindred spirit.
Springfield’s Ronald McDonald House, he explained, houses families of children with orthopedic issues, who are typically being treated at the nearby Shriners Hospital.
“One of the joys of going there is that, when you walk through the door and get to know the kids over time, they give you smiles that are not reconcilable with their lot in life,” he said.
“They might have severe curvature of the spine, or a missing limb or a limb bent the wrong way … so many physical challenges,” he continued. “And when you leave there, your problems — ‘oh, my cable’s broken,’ ‘oh, I can’t get my wireless router going’ — seem really trivial.”
Mancinone served as honorary chair for the area’s Ronald McDonald House Gala on Feb. 3, which netted close to $40,000 for the charity, a record. And in the past decade, he has found himself on the boards of other children’s charities, including the Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start and the South End Community Center in Springfield.
“I firmly believe that the more you give of yourself, the more rewards you will receive,” he said. “The problem is, I can’t prove it. A person has to know it in his heart.”
Only, Mancinone isn’t talking simply about financial benefits.
“The people I know who get involved for the right reasons, for the sake of the charity, live more fulfilled lives,” he told BusinessWest. “They’re extremely successful people, in so many ways, and I’m impressed with them. It’s something you just have to believe in. It works.”
A 1986 Westfield State College graduate, Mancinone passed his CPA exam soon after and enrolled in Western New England College Law School in 1992 with the goal of becoming a tax attorney. That, he said, gives him the opportunity to serve an important dual role for his clients at Paul C. Mancinone Co., P.C., which opened its doors in 1995.
“I have an interesting practice, being a CPA but also an attorney,” he said. “I tend to handle some cases that your typical CPA might not want to handle, because I have the law degree. It opens the door to a whole new cottage industry with respect to tax matters.”
It has also given him the opportunity to perform a good deal of pro bono work for clients facing legal issues with various tax bodies.
“I’m not mandated by the courts to do that,” he said. “But if someone has a need, if someone has a friend who has no money and asks, ‘can you help,’ I’ll jump in and do that.”
It’s a priority that has paid off financially at least once, he added. One of the most lucrative cases Mancinone ever worked on was a referral related to a pro bono case he taken a couple of years earlier when he had helped a woman settle her late father’s estate.
“I like being an attorney,” he continued. “I like the challenges of working with state governmental agencies, and representing taxpayers before tax authorities. That can only come with a law degree.”
Mancinone’s involvement with the Ronald McDonald House dates back to 1997 when he was asked to join the organization following a gala event. He quickly saw the value of the charity — and its needs. It costs the Springfield facility $40 per day to open one of its 20 rooms, but it charges only $10 — and waives even that fee if the family is unable to pay. “Then we start hitting the streets to get that $40 a day, times 20 rooms.”
Having served on the organization’s local board of directors for several years, he has persuaded friends and clients to get involved as well.
“It’s contagious, but there’s a fine line between having people enthusiastically into it and ramming it down someone’s throat,” Mancinone said. “You know who your clients are and who your friends are, and who would be enthusiastic about something like this.
“If it’s related to children, I’m in,” he added, a mission reflected in the other local boards on which he serves.
He speaks effusively about the South End Community Center, which helps young people find productive outlets for their time away from the streets.
“Politics aren’t going to pick up the children of Springfield; people are,” he said. “And you won’t see the fruit in two or three years, but in 15 to 20 years, when these kids are out of college and doing productive things with their lives. We’ve got to play a role with these children today.”
From the Heart
Mancinone repeatedly stressed to BusinessWest that his role in local charities is not an uncommon one for people in his field.
“Smaller firms don’t get the recognition that the bigger firms have with respect to what they do charitably,” he said. “But I’m not the only small practitioner in Springfield who sits on two or three boards.”
In fact, he said, practically any business person — or anyone, for that matter — with a heart to serve can easily find niches to do so.
“I want to encourage a lot of younger people to get involved, to take the time to volunteer,” he said. “We don’t do these things just because it’s morally right, but because it’s fiscally right. This is tomorrow’s workforce, and we’ve got to help these kids.”
Mancinone noted that some people don’t realize how easy it is to become involved with charitable work, but just stepping in the door, and staying awhile, will lead to continuous opportunities.
“If you call Head Start and tell the first person who answers the phone, ‘I’d like to do a reading for some children,’ you’ll be accepted with open arms,” he said.
Mancinone credits much of his drive to serve to his parents, who were born in Italy and had a philosophy of life very different from the all-too-typically American rat race.
“Having been to Italy many times has opened my eyes in the sense that I don’t live to work; I work to live,” he said. “I want to give that extra time. I know a lot of people who are workaholics but don’t give two cents to charity. I’m grateful to say I’m not one of them.”
Mancinone’s father, who once operated a blacksmith shop in Springfield, died last year, but his influence lives on — and not only in his son.
“That’s a lost trade in this city,” he said, “but some of his ironworks can still be found in the street signs in the South End.”
Paul Mancinone hopes some of his own work proves just as lasting.
Joseph Bednar can be reached at[email protected]