Betty Amatangelo
Betty Amatangelo cuddles her three-month-old grandson, Henry, while Henry's twin, Josie, sleeps on the swing.

by Liz Allen
When Betty Amatangelo was dismissed from her job at Mercyhurst University in a cost-cutting move in November 2014, the lost income hit her family's budget and also took an emotional toll.

But Betty and her husband, Tony, never considered reducing or dropping their gifts to Emmaus Ministries. They remain committed to tithing – giving back 10 percent of their income – because they know their donations make a difference. They also know what it's like to struggle with problems similar to those facing guests at Emmaus.

“We both fought addictions and alcoholism and are blessed with freedom from those things, she says. When you've been blessed beyond your wildest dreams, you just have to do things for others”

They choose carefully about where to donate money and time. At Emmaus, “We know the money gets used wisely. Sister (Mary Miller) wouldn't have it any other way,” she says.

In addition to supporting Emmaus financially, Betty, a certified yoga instructor, also donates yoga lessons to places where she has confidence that people fighting substance abuse will truly receive help, such as the women's prison and the Erie City Mission.“The disease of addiction does not discriminate,” she says. “It affects those who are dirt poor and the wealthy, those who quit school in the ninth grade and those who have a doctorate.”

Betty and Tony have been involved with Emmaus Ministries since their three children – Tony Jr., 27, Mia, 31, and Angela, 34 – were at St. Andrew School, where Betty started a youth group.

“I was trying to find a service program for the students to do. That's the first time I got connected with Emmaus,” she says. Tony Sr., who owns Amatech with his brother David, was already a volunteer at Sister Gus' Kids Cafe. “He connected us with Sister Mary,” Betty says.

The Amatangelo children volunteered at the soup kitchen through high school and college. One of her fondest memories is when she enlisted students from Mercyhurst University's Campus Ministry program, where she was a staff member, to help Sister Rosanne Lindal-Hynes provide Christmas gifts to Emmaus guests.

“You raise the money first. Then you get the names of families from Sister Rosanne. This gave us not only the chance to give money but to go out and buy the gifts and offer wrapping to a whole other group (of volunteers),” she says. “That was a wonderful ministry because you could involve so many other people.”

But giving back to others can also mean drawing on your unique talents, as Betty does when she teaches yoga. “Whatever God you believe in you bring to your mat,” she says. “As you're going through the movements, you're practicing mindful breathing and stillness. That is your time to commune with God.”

She enjoyed her position at Campus Ministry, where her many duties included running an interfaith awareness program. “We navigated interfaith dialogue,” she says. “A Mormon could talk about their faith and a Jewish kid could talk about theirs, in the same hour.”

When Mercyhurst University laid her off, along with other lower-level staff members, she wrote a column for the Erie Times-News expressing her disappointment. But if there is an upside to losing a job you love, it's “this,” she says, pulling her three-month-old grandson, Henry, close to her heart and rocking his twin sister, Josie, in an outdoor swing. She is grateful that she has time now to babysit for the twins and for their two-and-a-half-year-old brother, Charlie, and occasionally for their cousin, Elly, 13.

“For both of my daughters to have safe, dependable childcare through me was made possible by me getting fired. It was 'Grandma freedom,'” she says.
Betty, 55, isn't sure where she is headed on her own career path. “I'm pretty sure it's not to rest on my laurels.”

But she's tickled that Tony Jr. recently asked his parents how he can get involved in the community.
“(Our children) watched Tony and me give service over the decades in quiet ways and not-so-quiet ways. He asked, 'Where can I give one night a week?' My husband said, 'Call Emmaus. See if you can come to the Kids Cafe like I did,” she says. “The baton just keeps getting passed.”

Picture: Betty Amatangelo cuddles her three-month-old grandson, Henry, while Henry's twin, Josie, sleeps on the swing. Betty helps her daughters who work outside the home by babysitting.

LIZ ALLEN first became acquainted with Betty Amatangelo when Betty submitted a guest voice column for the Erie Times-News, about her experience in being laid off from Mercyhurst University.