Sandy couple tag teams service for community
In his retirement, John Andreotti has become a bit of a mentor for his neighbors in Scenic Meadows in Sandy.
For nearly 30 years, he has made his house a destination for families during the holiday season by covering it in lights and setting the display to music. Over the years, a few neighbors have joined him, consulting him on how best to set up their light shows.
But that’s merely scratching the surface of his community involvement — and he doesn’t do it all alone. Bernie Andreotti, his wife, is also an active volunteer in Sandy.
“We are a team,” John said. “We love this city.”
The two have been a team for 50 years as of Aug. 11.
The Andreotti’s moved to Sandy from Troutdale in 1996. Before retiring, John, 70, was an info director for a heavy-duty truck parts company in Portland for 25 years, and he coached youth baseball for 10. Bernie, 68, worked in healthcare administration for 45 years. John retired nine years ago, and Bernie joined him six years ago.
Volunteering in his retirement was always John’s plan.
“We had talked about when I retired, I was going to help with Habitat for Humanity,” John explained. “I love building stuff and fixing stuff.”
And he does. John started volunteering once a week for Habitat about five years ago.
“It’s a great feeling because we get to work with the families receiving these houses and see them work their butts off to build these homes,” John explained. “It’s so gratifying. It makes my heart swell.”
A few years later, the Andreottis donated time and talents to Zeb’s Wish Equine Sanctuary for special-needs animals. John helps as a handyman, and Bernie delights in caring for the horses.
Bernie had horses for part of her childhood, and this volunteer opportunity just brought that love full circle.
“It’s brought me really back to my childhood, which I love,” Bernie said. “I’ve always been an animal lover.”
And it helps Bernie keep a routine, which was the problematic part of retiring for her.
“When I retired, I had a really hard time not having a schedule,” she added. “We both needed something to do. It helps me. It helps the owners. I’m pretty good with animals. I like them. They like me. It feels like giving back. We’ve been pretty lucky in our lives.”
“It’s kind of fun spoiling these animals,” John said. “The people who run (the sanctuary) are just incredible.”
While Habitat and Zeb’s are year-round devotions for the couple, John seems to get just as much of a kick out of his seasonal project of decking out his house in lights and programming a display for others’ enjoyment. This is where he finds his child-like wonderment.
He’s been doing the lights since 1996, but the animation came in 2010.
“I put in at least 100 hours of programming into it every year,” he said. “Anything to make people happy.”
The lights display is an excellent representation of John and Bernie both, she explained.
“He always loves Christmas lights, and I’ve always loved Christmas carols,” Bernie said. The couple loves seeing kids and families from the community singing along to the songs.
John will have a new display on Thanksgiving this year, including 20,000 lights ready to delight the masses.
But these lights are not just for show. Since 2010, the couple has utilized the holiday entertainment to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Both of our mothers died of Alzheimer’s, two weeks apart,” John said. On top of this charitable effort, the Andreottis compound their giving by taking donations of nonperishable goods for the Sandy Community Action Center.
“We’ve had some really generous years,” John explained. Last year they brought in about 300 pounds of food and $800 for the Association.
Both Andreottis said they have no plans of slowing down until they absolutely have to. When not volunteering, the couple enjoys spending time with their two kids and five grandchildren.