A Legacy of Giving to Community Medical Center

Mark Kotzas holds a photo of his parents, Mary and Byron, in the courtyard garden named for Mary at CMC.

How one family helped build and support this New Jersey hospital from its earliest days.

Of all the values Mark Kotzas learned from his parents, few have had a longer-lasting impact than the importance of building and supporting the local community. “I remember my mother out volunteering with different organizations four or five days a week,” says Mark, owner and broker at Crossroads Realty, an 11-office residential and commercial brokerage development and property management firm based in Toms River. “My parents had an incredible sense of duty and community.”

The family’s story is linked to that of Community Medical Center (CMC) going back even before the hospital’s founding in 1961, now being celebrated with 60th anniversary salutes.

When Byron and Mary Kotzas moved to the Toms River area after Byron’s service as a pilot in World War II, the area was largely undeveloped and rural. “They were newlyweds in their 20s with no money and a small seaside restaurant/hotel business,” Mark says. “My father used to joke that back then there were 5,000 people and 50 million chickens in Toms River.”

But Byron and Mary also were visionaries, Mark says. “My father saw the future of Ocean County as a destination for vacationers and retirees,” he says. “They were prescient enough to know that a hospital was one of the things that a community really needed to be self-sustaining and thrive over many generations.”

Booming Area

Mark’s father went on to parlay his vision into success as a real estate developer and major hospital supporter, eventually starting Crossroads Realty in 1966. Mark’s mother took a hands-on role in community enterprises and took a particular interest in establishing, building and supporting the hospital.

As early as the late 1950s, Mary was active with a hospital auxiliary that began providing volunteers and raising funds before the hospital was built. She remained engaged with auxiliary organizations such as the Laurel Twig chapter for decades, taking leadership roles and serving multiple terms as president. She led a variety of fundraising activities such as raffles, balls and fashion shows, and served 13 years on the hospital’s Board of Trustees.

But one of Mary ’s most meaningful achievements was as founding president of the CMC Auxiliary’s Second Time Around Consignment Shop (STACS), a store that opened on her birthday in June 1975 using space Byron made available in one of the hospital’s ancillary buildings. The shop eventually grew and moved to a 10,000-squarefoot site a mile west of the hospital. Over the years, STACS has raised over $3 million for CMC and continues to provide significant funds. “Her hope was that it would last beyond her, and it certainly has,” Mark says.

As the couple anticipated, Ocean County’s population boomed, becoming one of the fastest-growing areas in New Jersey during the 1970s. That fostered business success, “but my parents always gave back,” Mark says. “They always lived in the same house they built in 1962 and were more interested in building the community than other things.”

The couple also felt strongly that education was important to the community and were instrumental in establishing and supporting Ocean County College, which eventually grew from a two-year to a four-year institution. “My parents set up nursing scholarships at the college that we continue to fund, and a lot of those nurses do their training at Community Medical Center,” Mark says.

“The Kotzases’ belief in the critical importance of both healthcare and education aligns well with the fact that CMC is now an academic medical center, with the arrival of its first 27 new physician residents in July,” says Jennifer Shufran, Vice President, Community Medical Center Foundation. “Mary and Byron were very generous supporters of the hospital, and the CMC family is fortunate that they helped build and grow this institution from the beginning. We’re grateful the family stays connected with us.”

Continued Support

The Kotzases’ lasting legacy was recognized well before Byron’s death in 2012 and Mary’s in 2017. In 1991, Mary was formally recognized for her long-term contributions when the courtyard garden near the hospital’s entrance was named in her honor. But many of their financial contributions remain anonymous. “They were from an era where you just didn’t talk about these things,” Mark says.

It’s another lesson Mark absorbed from his parents, but he also sees value in inspiring others to support the critical role of a local hospital. “There’s nobody in the community who doesn’t need it,” he says. “Thank God Community Medical Center is here. I encourage others to join in giving.”

Most recently, Mark has made a commitment from the Kotzas Family Foundation to support CMC’s growth and development through a planned initiative called the Campaign to Transform CMC. The plan includes future measures and some already under way, including a transformed wing for medical education, a redesigned women’s health center, service hubs throughout the area that bring care closer to where people live and a variety of expanded services such as emergency care.

“A strong hospital is important, especially in an area where a large number of residents are older and have a need for robust medical care,” Mark says. “Thanks in part to my parents, CMC is now a major medical center, and I’m proud to continue their legacy of support.”

To learn more about supporting the transformation of Community Medical Center, call 732.557.8131.