Chris Zizza

Board Chairman of the Travis Mills Foundation James Shubert has had many successes in life and in business. His early years, however, wouldn’t have predicted that.

“If you’ve ever seen one of those movies where the teenagers hang out at the local carhop, race cars and motorcycles and skip class, then you’ve had a glimpse into my teenage years,” he said.

A self-made business owner, leader and humanitarian, Chris realized early on that college wasn’t for him. He left school to pursue a trade – wood flooring. At the age of 19 he worked for a local contractor and learned all that he could; even borrowing equipment to complete his own customer jobs in the evenings. By the age of 22, his hard work had paid off. He transformed his night job into C & R Flooring Inc. The same year, he became a board director for Catholic Charities in Boston where he served for the next 11 years.

Chris has contributed his time and passion to a number of causes, including being part of events that have raised millions of dollars for at-risk children in Massachusetts. He’s also contributed efforts in and outside of New England that include rebuilding schools, churches, and hurricane-ravaged homes. His efforts have also been instrumental in building homes for wounded veterans.

Through his company and as chairman of the National Wood Flooring Association, Chris has contributed to the building of nearly 70 homes for wounded veterans through the Gary Sinise Foundation and through the Association.

The Gary Sinise Foundation, in fact, was how Chris became aware of the Foundation and Board Chairman Jim Shubert. That spark that Chris often talks about was lit, and he started to support the Foundation in any way he could, attending its Building Strength Gala in 2021 and then dedicating his own cookbook proceeds and show, “Cooking with Zizz,” to the Foundation.

Cooking with Zizz >>>

He has also provided flooring for the Foundation’s new offices and refinished the floors in the Warrior PATHH (Progressive & Alternative Training for Helping Heroes) classroom on the campus. Additionally, he has spearheaded the SSG Travis Mills $5K Challenge to help build the organization’s new Health and Wellness Center.

SSG Travis Mills $5,000 Challenge >>>

That’s why when he was invited to join the board in 2022, it was an easy decision for Chris – he was in.

Chris’s story is the epitome of the American Dream and making the most out of opportunities afforded to him because of his own grit and the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of the United States.

 “Just putting on that uniform is a sacrifice,” he said. “It’s because of those men and women in uniform that I was able to succeed.”

The sacrifices made by the veterans who attend the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat, Chris said, are awe inspiring.

 “It gives me the energy to do more,” he added.

Chris is extremely proud to have earned the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which is presented annually to U.S. citizens who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate, their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity. They do so while acknowledging their debt to their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America.

Other medalists include Rosa Parks, Gary Sinise, Presidents Joe Biden, Donald Trump, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, along with many actors, activists, athletes and public servants.

Only a medal of honor winner can nominate someone for the prestigious award, Chris said, adding that it’s his intention to nominate U.S. Army SSG (Ret.) Travis Mills.

“Sometimes fate and occurrence crushes and individual, a group or a town and someone needs to spark a fire to react and to begin to right that misfortune,” he said. “I try to be that someone and I try to teach those around me to do the same.”

“Once that fire starts, it roars.”