At first glance, Ed Zito looks more like a member of a corporate boardroom than a volunteer activist.
The Buckhead resident wears a pressed suit and keeps his salt-and-pepper hair neatly styled. He’s from New Jersey and speaks in a polite, no-nonsense tone.
Zito’s an entrepreneur, but these days he spends much of his time volunteering on behalf of the nonprofit American Kidney Services. He treats it as though it were a multimillion-dollar account, making appearances at local chamber meetings and in local media.
He can rattle off the statistics and assurances. American Kidney Services collects 120,000 pounds of donated clothes per week. In 2012, Consumers Digest named its parent organization, American Kidney Fund, as one of the country’s top charities.
Zito said he was referred to AKS in 2010 because of his ability to network and his business contacts. He’s been president of three different firms and currently works as a sales consultant.
“When I checked it out, I was very impressed,” he said.
Locals will recognize the teal-colored collection bins scattered throughout the metro area. American Kidney Services will pick up donated items from the bins and local homes. The nonprofit then sells the items to Value Village thrift stores, taking the proceeds and sending them to the American Kidney Fund. American Kidney Fund uses the money to help defray the expenses of people who have kidney disease.
Zito said he became interested in the charity in part because of a family illness. His wife was diagnosed with cancer. Watching her go through the pain of treatments reminded him of the toll an illness can take on a family.
“Being familiar with a disease that could take a life, it gave me a different perspective,” Zito said. “I couldn’t take things for granted anymore.”
People who have worked with Zito say he has been able to put his business experience to good use.
Greg Grisham, logistics coordinator for American Kidney Services, said Zito has been an effective spokesman in the community for the nonprofit.
“We’re a member of four different chambers of commerce,” Grisham said. “It’s impossible to attend everything, and with me trying to do that, I was getting spread too thin.”
Zito stepped in and quickly learned all he needed to know about the nonprofit, Grisham said.
“He’s a people person, a nice asset to have,” Grisham said. “He’s very knowledgeable about what we do. He’s had some great ideas as far as launching commercials. He brought a lot of different knowledge to the table.”
Tom Mahaffey, president and executive director of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, said he enjoys working with Zito in his role as an ambassador for American Kidney Services. “He seems to be very dedicated and very loyal to his project,” Mahaffey said.
Zito said he continues to think of ways to innovate on behalf of the cause. He said one problem facing American Kidney Services is its dwindling list of phone numbers. Many households no longer have a landline telephone, and it’s become more challenging to contact people about donating items.
He said his primary mission these days is education, helping people learn more about how the nonprofit helps others.
“If people have a little more knowledge, more people will get involved,” Zito said.