News

Local Italian community delivers earthquake support

By Ray Spiteri, Niagara Falls Review

Niagara’s Italian community raised $155,810.83 to help people affected by last August’s earthquake in central Italy that destroyed most of the city of Amatrice.

Organizer Felix Pingue, his wife Lucia, Nick Radice, president of Club Italia in Niagara Falls, and Joe Miani, of the Italian Canadian Cultural Centre in Port Colborne, visited the medieval city in early April and personally delivered the money that will assist families impacted by the disaster.

Pingue said the money was raised through 10 fundraising events hosted by 10 Italian clubs in Niagara over the past five months.

Support also came in from two Italian clubs from Buffalo, N.Y., the Vice Consulate of Italy in Buffalo and the Catholic diocese in Niagara and Buffalo.

“All the clubs worked together,” said Pingue, who has family living close to the area that was devastated by the 6.2-magnitude quake on Aug. 24 that killed nearly 300 people and left entire sections of a dozen towns and villages reduced to rubble.

“I thank all the community, all the clubs. We went right to Amatrice, right where the earthquake happened. My brother from Italy helped out, and then my sister from Italy also helped out, brought all the food. We stayed together about five hours. We fed them, a lot of people came in.”

Pingue said organizers didn’t want the money to go to an agency, but rather directly to families in need.

The money will be distributed according to a plan that worked well in the past, he said.

Pingue, a businessman and past president of Club Italia in Niagara Falls, said a process of collecting and distributing the money was put in place in 2009 when an earthquake levelled much of the city of L’Aquila.

That system was successful, he said, unlike previous earthquake fundraising events where money was collected and turned over to various organizations or government agencies, but took either years or never reached those who needed it.

Pingue said when the group arrived in Amatrice, they were told “this money is going to get us a long way.”

“When we walked into the room, as I looked in their faces … I couldn’t come up with the words. They said if everybody would do what you guys are doing, each and every one of us would have a little bit of money (for things) to work out.”

Pingue said when the Italian media found out the Niagara group was visiting, they reached out to get their story.

He said the group appeared on a Rai talk show. Rai is a 24-hour news television channel.

“They were surprised what we did.”

After the interview on the show, Pingue presented a framed photo of Niagara Falls on behalf of the City of Niagara Falls.

rspiteri@postmedia.com