A Year-End Message from
President and CEO Marco DeVuono
With the end of 2022 just around the corner, it’s a good time to reflect and share some highlights from the past year with the Villa Charities family.

For the first time in more than two years, in 2022 we were able to return to “normal,” with on-site operations running at full capacity. It was great to welcome everyone back to the Villa Charities campus, seeing familiar faces and welcoming new ones. 

Two major projects for Villa Charities launched in 2022, signaling our emergence from the pandemic with optimism and a view to exciting times ahead.

In July, we proudly announced the Villa Charities Italian Canadian Immigrant Tribute project, honouring Italian Canadian immigrants and their families. The Immigrant Tribute installation and sculpture will be a destination for people of Italian heritage to gather, commemorate, celebrate, and reflect on their immigrant heritage and collective achievements. When completed, the wall will feature upwards of 5,000 individual plaques with the names of family members and the year they immigrated from Italy to Canada. Name plaques are on sale now and there’s still time to purchase one as a Christmas gift! 

Our lobby at the Columbus Centre was fully renovated with a beautiful new contemporary design and décor. The space was transformed into a welcoming destination for our patrons and visitors to gather and socialize. This project was made possible by a generous donation from the Carlo and Angela Baldassarra Family, and we are extremely grateful for their incredible support. 

Cultural Activities and Events

During the past year, we presented over 150 cultural programs, bringing together Italian art, culture, history, literature, special events and unique culinary experiences. 
Our popular series of Cultural Tuesdays illustrated talks continued, with curated themes focusing on a broad range of topics. Patrons were educated while socializing with the Learn Italian by Doing Italian language workshops.

Music was the theme of many of our cultural events. We presented concerts with acclaimed Italian Canadian performers across many musical genres, in partnership with Coro San Marco, Columbus Concert Band, Vesuvius Ensemble, Toronto City Opera, Opera Sustenida, North Wind Concerts and more.
With support from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors program, Villa Charities was able to provide a variety of programming and events to engage the seniors in our community. Programs included our free weekly Ballo Liscio social dancing nights and our Ferragosto Celebration in August.

Another highlight in our programming calendar was the return of our Sagre (festivals). Seniors, families and the community at large came together to enjoy these joyful celebrations featuring Italian food and traditions, with our Sagra del Pomodoro (Tomato Sauce Making Festival), Sagra della Castagna (Roasted Chestnut Festival), and Sagra del Panettone (Panettone Festival and Christmas Dessert Contest).
Villa Charities proudly celebrated Italian Heritage Month in June with a month-long festival dedicated to Italian culture and heritage. The roster once again showcased the artistry and talents of Italian-Canadian performers and Villa Charities’ diverse community with a lineup that included engaging cultural and heritage programs, music concerts, literary events, dance performances, and special food events.

Our Taste of Italy series and Pasta Making Classes let patrons savour authentic Italian specialties at regionally themed dinners, and then learn how to make Italian dishes and fresh handmade pasta specialties from scratch themselves.
We marked the holiday season at Villa Charities with a festive Christmas market, music concerts and the new original presentation “The Christmas Chair” / “La Sedia di Natale”. This immersive holiday experience created by internationally acclaimed theatre company DopoLavoro Teatrale (DLT) and director Daniele Bartolini, with music by the Vesuvius Ensemble invited audiences to take a seat on the ‘Christmas chair’ and share their fondest holiday memories.
At the Joseph D. Carrier Art Gallery, the works of premier visual artists were on display throughout the year. Art exhibitions included “2050: Artifacts from the Future of Medicine” by Nick D’Aleandro, Lilian Broca’s “Mary Magdalene Resurrected,” Aba Bayefsky’s “The Streets of Italy” / “The World of Tattoos,” “Sustenance” by Mimmo Baronello and more.

Child Care

Columbus Early Learning Centres continued to offer high-quality child care at our Casa Del Zotto and Centro Abruzzo centres, along with our Before and After-School programs at St. Raphael, Regina Mundi and St. Charles Catholic schools. 

Columbus Centre

Patrons of all ages returned to the Columbus Centre this year, to participate in our art, music, dance and athletics programs.

Recreational, Competitive and Adult dance programs resumed on-site at DanzArts Toronto, the Columbus Centre’s highly regarded school of dance. The Columbus Centre School of Music welcomed returning and new students, as did our Art Programs, which included our popular Artista Painting Workshops and our online Painting Masterclasses.

We were thrilled to see our members returning post-pandemic to the Columbus Centre Athletic Club, along with many new faces. We introduced new programs including Kickboxing, Small Group Personal Training and Yoga for Athletes and Beginners.
New additions to our racquet sports featured Launch and Learn Mini Pickleball, Squash and Tennis House Leagues, Children’s Racquet Camp along with our new Games Room. The Athletic Club also received Squash Canada’s IDEA Encouragement Fund, to offer underserved high school students with the opportunity to participate in quality squash programming.

The Men’s General changeroom facilities were given a complete makeover and work on the Women’s General changeroom has commenced.
Caffe Cinquecento Italian Bar & Eatery was launched by Chef Luciano Schipano at the Columbus Centre, serving up traditional Italian cuisine with a creative spin. Chef Luciano is also the provider of all food catering for Columbus Event Centre events on the
Villa Charities campus.

Villa Charities Foundation

Villa Charities Foundation continued with their efforts to raise much-needed funds in support of programs and services at Villa Charities, with in-person events returning in 2022.

After a two-year hiatus, our community of cycling enthusiasts came out to participate in the 15th Annual Villa Charities' Giro Cycling Fundraiser in May. With their incredible support, we raised over $120,000 for the Canadian Red Cross’ Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal.
On Wednesday, June 8, 2022, a special dinner to welcome Marco DeVuono as President and CEO of Villa Charities Inc. was hosted by four of the organization’s founding members: Anthony Fusco, the Honourable Consiglio Di Nino, Joseph Chiappetta, and Rudolph Bratty. The private event was also an in-person celebration of the past five decades of Villa Charities, following the official 50th anniversary of the organization on April 15, 2021. Guests included Board members and long-time supporters.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the second Ital-Canadian Golf Open on September 8 at The Country Club in Woodbridge, in support of CIBPA Toronto, ICCO Canada, and Villa Charities Foundation. Participants, sponsors and volunteers celebrated our community and gave back in a meaningful way, helping us to raise over $100,000 in support of scholarships and bursaries for students across the country.
In May, the 2022 Villa Charities Scholarship Program was launched for post-secondary undergraduate and graduate students. The third year of this national program was funded by Villa Charities Foundation and made available to students of any heritage who help further Villa Charities’ mission to enrich lives through experiences and services that honour Italian culture and heritage.
The Villa Charities Scholarship Program includes a total of sixteen scholarships valued at $60,000. Eight of the sixteen scholarships are awarded through Villa Charities Foundation in support of undergraduate and graduate-level studies in a variety of disciplines. The remaining eight scholarships are awarded through George Brown College in Toronto, in support of students pursuing a degree in Architectural Studies or Culinary Arts. Four students receive The Villa Charities Renzo Pillon Memorial Scholarship, and four students are the recipients of the Villa Charities Culinary Scholarship, supported in part by The Food Dudes. Since launching the scholarship program in 2020, more than $160,000 in scholarships has been awarded to students. 

Villa Charities continued to support and work with other organizations and events. In 2022, this included sponsorships and event partnerships. Just some of the wonderful collaborations are highlighted below.

We partnered with TLN Media Group to present an advance screening of the Italian crime thriller “Diabolik” and hit comedies under the stars with “Italian Movie Nights” all summer long, along with Caffe Cinquecento Italian Bar & Eatery. Villa Charities was the Presenting Sponsor of the “Italy at Home” Film Festival on TLN TV, a specially curated month-long TV event in June.
Villa Charities proudly supported the 11th edition of the 2022 Italian Contemporary Film Festival as a Film+ Sponsor and was the Presenting Sponsor of the film “Il Silenzio grande” / “The Great Silence” on Tuesday, June 28 at the Trinity Cinema.

We celebrated the peak of summer with our Ferragosto event, in partnership with CIBPA Toronto and Toronto Azzurri Soccer Club. This full day of activities for the entire family included porchetta, authentic Italian foods, ice cream, soccer games, entertainment, and more. Villa Charities once again supported Mississauga ITALFEST as an Amici Sponsor of their 10th Anniversary event.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of famous Italian writer and dramatist Dino Buzzati, Villa Charities and Istituto Italiano di Cultura of Toronto, in partnership with Ponte tra Culture Society, presented “Stories, Strange Stories” (“Storie, strane storie”), a 5-week intensive theatre program in the fall.
Other partnerships included our Expat Parties in collaboration with AIRIcerca Toronto Chapter, COM.IT.ES and Italiani a Toronto and “The Quiet Immigrant Project” exhibition and programming.

Property Management & Independent Seniors’ Apartments

Villa Charities was successful in securing $3,350,000 in grants that allowed us to make significant upgrades to our HVAC systems at Villa Colombo Toronto through the Investing In Canada Program (ICIP)-Long-Term Care Homes. In addition, we secured $671,800 in grants for roofing projects at Casa Del Zotto and Caboto Terrace, funded by the Canada-Ontario Community Housing Initiative (COCHI) Program through City of Toronto and National Housing Co-Investment Fund through CMHC. We also received COCHI Program funding of $70,500 for Casa Abruzzo’s exterior lighting retrofit and garage exhaust system.
In partnership with Toronto Fire Services, Villa Charities presented a Fire Safety Presentation during Safety Awareness Month in June for the residents of our three independent seniors’ apartments. Our seniors also enjoyed other activities courtesy of Villa Charities including Sagra della Salsiccia (Sausage Festival), Gentle Seniors Exercise classes, Salsa for Seniors and Resident Appreciation Day, with Chef Luciano Schipano’s Italian menu on the “pentolino”, along with live music and dancing with Bruno Nesci.
Looking Ahead

Villa Charities is proud to bring Italian culture and heritage to you in so many ways. I encourage our wonderfully diverse and engaged community to join us and experience our many programs in 2023. I also thank our Villa Charities tenants including TLN Media Group, Leonardo Da Vinci Academy, Academy of Realist Art, CIBPA Toronto and Centro Scuola, who complement our offerings and add value to our campus.

Next year, I look forward to my ongoing collaboration with our Board, Executive team and staff, and to incorporate the insights of our patrons, partners, community members and other stakeholders as we continue to further VCI’s vision of inspiring people to explore the Italian in all of us.

A very heartfelt THANK YOU to our staff, management, Board, residents and patrons, who continue to participate and support this great organization. The Villa Charities Executive team and I wish you and your families all the best this holiday season and a happy New Year!

Marco DeVuono
President and CEO
Villa Charities Inc.