SCOTT VAN DUZER, 44
Fort Pierce, Fla.
When Hurricane Wilma swept through Florida in 2005, Gary Faircloth lost everything. His home destroyed, the firefighter, his wife and three children had nowhere to live-until Scott Van Duzer learned of their plight: “I asked myself,” he recalls, “‘What can I do to help?'”
Invite 300 firefighters to an all-you-can-eat fund-raiser at Van Duzer’s Big Apple Pizza parlor, that’s what. The evening raised $2,000, enough for Faircloth, 42, to put down a deposit on a rental apartment. In 2008 Van Duzer, who started at the pizzeria in high school and bought it seven years later, launched the Van Duzer Foundation (thevanduzerfoundation.org) and has since become the George Bailey of St. Lucie County. Through his pizza-pie philanthropy-in which he donates a designated night’s proceeds-he’s raised $200,000 for 23 families in crisis. “We’re blessed,” says Fort Pierce mayor Bob Benton. Van Duzer, a married dad of three, raised more than $6,000 each for cancer patients Chris Dixon, 25, whose illness forced him to stop working, and Lynda Ray, 32, a mom whose insurance didn’t cover big medical bills. “To have somebody who doesn’t know you do something that nice,” Ray says, “is amazing.” As for Faircloth, he’s Van Duzer’s No. 1 supporter, bringing his family to Van Duzer’s fund-raisers. “We eat a lot of pizza,” he says. “What Scott’s doing is a great thing.”
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