Vaughan MP Maurizio Bevilacqua, the Grand Prior of Canada Mario Cortellucci and Ivana Facasso, president of the Abruzzese Federation, discussed joint relief efforts for the residents of Abruzzo, Italy, hit hard earlier this week by a powerful earthquake.

Earthquake relief gets personal for Toronto-Italians

Earthquakes have killed members of his family before, so Vaughan MP Maurizio Bevilacqua feels compelled to help his countrymen this time.

“In a personal way, these natural disasters have touched me,” he said.

In 1915 his great grandparents died in an earthquake near Abruzzo. His grandmother was found five days after in the rubble. That’s one of the reasons Bevilacqua joined a joint press conference in Toronto today.

After two days of deliberation, several Toronto-area organizations – the Toronto Abruzzese Federation and the Order of Saint John, a Canadian humanitarian group, announced plans to work together. They will co-operate to provide relief for the victims of the earthquake that struck the Abruzzo region on Monday.

In a press conference, this morning, the two associations announced a bank account to assist with relief. Ivana Facasso, the president of the Abruzzese Federation and the Grand Prior of Canada, Mario Cortellucci, answered questions about how best to help the victims of the earthquake and restore old buildings.

Facasso says the two associations plan to leave the account locked until they decide how funds can best be used. Facasso said the organizations will guarantee that all donations go directly to assist the Abruzzo region recover. The CIBC branch in Thornhill will accept donations.
Cortellucci said he has family members in the Abruzzo region and that they aren’t doing so well right now. He said while the buildings are an important part of history and should be restored, it’s the lives of the victims he’s worried about most.

“I ask all Canadians …to join together to help,” Cortellucci said.

The Italian Canadian Savings and Credit Union also has an account open for people to donate to the relief effort. Francesco Riondino, the Credit Union manager said he was impressed by the Italian Canadian community’s response.

“People really want to help,” he said. “We’ve been very busy these past few days.”

Meanwhile, Pal Di lulio, the executive director of Villa Charities in Toronto, said he’s spent the last two days tending to matters regarding the relief effort for Abruzzo.

“We’ve considered how we can help, whether it be through providing money for cultural reconstruction or long term capital”, he said.

Toronto’s Italian Consul General, Gianni Bardini, said he was surprised at the rapid response of the local community. He said Italy had two major earthquakes in the 1970s and the Italian community in Toronto was very helpful then. He said the Italian government has aided the victims and any foreign aid is not needed immediately.

He believes foreign relief offered to Italy will eventually assist in the rebuilding the medieval city.

Filed by Saba Taye