Gary Dolloff gathers food while volunteering Nov. 10 for the Senior Commodities Food Distribution program in Rumford. Dolloff is also participating in the Run of the Year challenge and raising money for Operation Reboot Outdoors, a nonprofit that gets veterans outdoors to combat the high suicide rate in that community. Those are just two of the things Dolloff does to help the community in Rumford. Gregory A. Rec/Portland Press Herald

Taking the extra step is what Gary Dolloff, 56, is known for in his Rumford community. He is the manager of the Rumford Community Center, having been on its board of directors beginning in 1989, when he returned from his service in the Army, until 2013.

He is passionate about causes supporting veterans, and one example is his year-long campaign to run 2,132 miles to raise money for Operation Reboot Outdoors, an organization dedicated to helping veterans assimilate back into society. Originally, Dolloff challenged himself to run as many miles as the year — 2,021 — hoping to raise at least a dollar a day for the cause through donations from supporters in the community. However, he decided to add 111 miles, which would be as far as Austin, Texas, where his daughter lives. 

Aside from managing the Community Center full time, he has coached high school sports for 35 years, organized fundraisers, provided more than 2,600 gallons of home heating oil and regularly dresses up as Batman for children’s birthdays and events. 

His bat symbol is a familiar one in Rumford: The logo is proudly emblazoned on Dolloff’s truck. “I didn’t know how it would go over. I always thought Batman was the coolest,” he said. “I just want to put smiles on (their) faces.”

Gary Dolloff, right, plays around Thursday, Nov. 18, in the third-floor basketball court at the Greater Rumford Community Center, which he manages. Tresdon Mills, left, and Lanee Boucher have been coached by Dolloff in wrestling and softball, respectively. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

In an effort to boost morale during the pandemic’s lockdown last year, Dolloff donned his Santa outfit, which he is also known for, and kayaked across the town softball field, where he coaches in the spring, after it was flooded by hard rain the night before. Traditionally he gets into the outfit to help out Santa, handing out gifts to children during the holidays. He says it is a seasonal act of gratitude from his childhood that he has managed to pay forward every year.

“(While growing up), if we got one or two presents, that was a lot. And one Christmas, I remember Santa Claus, dressed to a T, and he had three or four bags of toys wrapped up and we got like five toys that night, and I never forgot it,” he said.

Whenever there is someone in need, Gary is there rallying the community to support them. Age, race, gender, name, circumstance … it doesn’t matter,” said Aimee Thibodeau, Dolloff’s cousin and one of many people who nominated Dolloff for the newspaper’s series on Mainers to be thankful for.

Dolloff was born one of eight children and was raised in Rumford by his grandmother, whose kindness toward others inspired him throughout his childhood. He felt compelled to carry on her legacy after a work accident made him reconsider his priorities. “I decided that I wanted to help more people. I wanted to make a difference,” Dolloff said. “Make my life mean something.”

Dolloff has established himself as a mentor for the youth in the community, providing them with job opportunities, memberships for the local gym, and experience with respect — something he feels is fundamentally missing in this younger generation.

“Today’s kids don’t have the same benefits I had growing up as far as getting to see respect a lot. I demand respect and I respect them back. My biggest (reward) that I get out of this whole thing is that I want these kids to see me as something they would like to attain later as far as helping out and paying it forward.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.