Buffalo’s Italian-American community, galvanized by Wednesday’s earthquake that wiped out several small mountain villages in central Italy, is mobilizing to aid displaced residents.
Dozens of deaths have been reported in the quake’s aftermath with the city of Amatrice taking the largest hit, said the Hon. Lucia Caracci Ederer, honorary vice consul of Italy.
“How can you ignore something of that magnitude?” said Ederer. “People of Amatrice were preparing for a weekend festival to honor their patron madonna. It’s an ancient city.”
They already have a good idea how they’ll go about raising money for the earthquake survivors.
In 2009, an earthquake struck in the Abruzzo region of Italy and a local relief effort based at St. Anthony’s Church raised $60,000, Ederer recalled.
The fundraising was spurred by the large number of local Italian-Americans with family members in the Abruzzo region. One of them was Dennis DiPaolo, son of Ilio DiPaolo, who operates DiPaolo’s Restaurant in Blasdell.
“We already have a blueprint from the 2009 effort,” said DiPaolo. “We planned a Mass followed by a fundraising reception. We can organize a similar event to take place in a couple of months. Already I have messages on my desk regarding a fundraiser. Everyone is calling.”
Peter Lojacono, who teaches Italian at Hutchinson Central Technical High School, was also involved in the fundraising in 2009. Hutch Tech raised $600 in one week that year with a spare-change bucket set up in the school cafeteria, said Lojacono. The school located on South Elmwood Avenue has a sister school in Puglia, Italy, according to Lojacono.
As president of the Italian-American Federation, Lojacono on Wednesday emailed 25 Italian-American clubs in the area asking for their assistance.
“It’s so recent, I’m still processing the information,” said Lojacono. “The various clubs throughout the area routinely help raise funds.”
Ederer has hit the ground running this time. The honorary consulate has set the dinner’s signature entree.
“We are planning to feature the pasta dish from Amatrice, a simple marinara sauce flavored with guanciale, a cured meat similar to salami. The dish is all’amatriciana, and we’re hoping Dennis DiPaolo will make it.”
Ederer, who recently moved vice consulate offices to Niagara Arts and Cultural Center on Pine Avenue, is contemplating two fund-raising efforts – one in Buffalo, and the other in Niagara Falls.
The ancient city of Amatrice also served as home of a unique Italian bagpipe, one that Ederer hoped to incorporate into this fundraising effort.
“When we see the kind of power Mother Nature unleashes,” Ederer said, “after a while all we can do is pray.”