Berkshire Eagle, The (Pittsfield, MA)
Article ID: 13991312
Foundation cares for children
Trevor Jones, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, Dec. 14 PITTSFIELD -- It all started in a mall at Christmas time, with a suitcase filled with Matchbox cars.
While shopping outside of Boston for friends and family 13 years ago, John Iovieno looked around and didn't feel right.
"It felt empty, getting gifts," said Iovieno, now a Pittsfield resident. "I knew that we were doing well, and there were people who weren't doing very well."
So Iovieno walked into a toy store, bought up all the little replica cars he could, and got in touch with a social worker who connected the toys with two children -- one of them with a life-threatening disease -- who had lost their mother and were living with their grandmother.
"I thought: Wow, that's the best $40 I've ever spent," he said.
And it was that family's story which was the impetus for the Frank Iovieno Caring for Children Foundation, named after Iovieno's father who died in 2000, which raised $40,000 and helped more than 230 children last year.
Started in 1997 as Caring for Children, the foundation is a nonprofit organization which raises funds for children from economically challenged families who suffer from chronic, life-threatening diseases, like HIV/AIDS and sickle cell anemia.
The foundation, which has grown to a year-round operation, gives funding for basic needs like clothing and food for children and their families, connecting to them through social workers at seven different hospitals from Boston to Albany, N.Y.
Rachel Diness, the foundation's vice president and a social worker in Middletown, N.Y., said the charity has been a grassroots effort that keeps people coming back.
"I really think that our sponsors get as much out of it or more than the families -- to know that they gave children a Christmas that they wouldn't otherwise have," she said.
Sponsors are given a profile of the family they are assisting, and the administrators say it's that personal connection which makes the difference.
"It's the story, that's what really stuck with me," said Iovieno. "That had to be part of my charity and what I would be doing. I wanted to have the stories beforehand so it would really drive sponsors to do as much as they could."
Iovieno said it's overwhelming to think of how much has changed and how many gracious people he has worked with since he made that impulse purchase of so many little toy cars.
But for him, it's really all about making life a little easier for a child whose lives are never easy.
"It just tears at me," said Iovieno. "If I'm going to help some population, I definitely want to help kids that are dealing with a lot more than they ever should."
For more information on how to donate or become a sponsor visit www.frankccc.com.