The Central Orange County Italian-American Association has been quietly doing good works for decades. And last Christmas was no exception.
On Dec. 18, members of the association, comprised of individuals of Italian-American heritage, met at the Dikeman Engine & Hose Co. in Goshen to turn over dozens of toys they had purchased to veterans Pete and Laura Rollins, for distribution to veterans' families in need.
Association member Robert Giordano said the Central Orange County Italian American Association and the Knights of Columbus had partnered on this effort.
“The two organizations donate these toys and presents to the Veterans Association for the children in Orange County whose parents don’t have enough money or need certain gifts," he said. "We supply the gifts and hopefully, we can make their Christmas as happy as it is for us to do this service for them. And that we can bring a little joy into their lives and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.”
The gifts will be distributed by Pete and Laura Rollins to different veterans’ families and other families in need.
“A lot of people don’t realize some of these veterans today — they’re on welfare — and they’re in the military,” said Pete Rollins of the Disabled American Veterans of Orange County. “A lot of them are on WIC because they don’t get the pay they were getting. Once they come back from overseas combat they lose a lot of their money because they’re not in a hazardous situation.”
These vets make $18,000 to $20,000 a year, Rollins said. And with families to support, they just can’t make ends meet and so have to turn to social services for help. Rollins decries that as a shame.
Giordano said the association has been giving to the House on the Hill, which provides daycare for migrant children, for more than 30 years. They also give out 10 or 12 college scholarships every year for kids in Orange County.
“We give out toys to Orange Regional Medical Center," Giordano said. "We’ll be there Monday, at noon, to donate toys to the kids in the hospital."
The group allocates anywhere from $500 to $650 to each organization of the three organizations they serve. And they’re considering taking on another project for autistic children to make them feel safe and give them sensory experiences. Giordano was heading to Ollie’s outlet later let to buy more toys.
Joe Casillo, president of the Central Orange Italian-American Association, headquartered in Goshen, added that they also provide 30 turkeys at Thanksgiving, with all the trimmings, to the families of the House on the Hill.
“It’s great to give back to the community, especially that you live in, and you have to realize this time of year, there are a lot of people out there less fortunate than we are,” said John DiLapi, Association secretary. “It’s nice to be in a position to give back to the community and people who deserve it.”
Pete Rollins and Laura Rollins are happy to distribute toys to veteran families. They started doing this years ago when they lost twin boys a couple of days apart when they were both in the Army. “So it helps us out for the season to help these kids. These guys—the Italian-American Association—we can’t thank them enough,” said Pete Rollins.The association’s mission is to share and advance Italian American culture through community service. Fundraising takes place at two main events: the Great American Weekend and a golf outing at West Hills Country Club every September. If you would like to contribute or inquire about becoming a member, call the president, Joe Casillo, at 845-313-8484.
“It’s great to give back to the community, especially that you live in, and you have to realize this time of year, there are a lot of people out there less fortunate than we are.” --John DiLapi, Central Orange County Italian-American Association