“That’s amazing,” Roberta Steinle said Tuesday morning after learning Chuck Lamendola Jr., president and owner of Astro of New England, made a $1,000 donation to Neighbors Helping Neighbors.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors is a program that provides and coordinates food baskets and food gift cards to less fortunate families and individuals during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“It’s all about taking care of people in the community that need extra help,” Steinle said, noting that the program assists about 1,000 people and the need has grown significantly during the last 10 years.
Steinle, a project coordinator for Warwick’s Department of Human Services that overseas the community-based program, said since the Warwick Beacon ran an article highlighting the need for donations in the Dec. 6 edition, they’ve received nearly $4,000 in contributions. The publication has been a part of the program for decades.
“The article in the Beacon has helped out a lot, “she said. “The donations have started to come in. I got a $1,700 donation yesterday from the Warwick Firefighters. A man came in and said he read about it in the Beacon and made a donation of $200.”
Last week, Steinle told the newspaper donations were down compared to last year. She surmised people had donated to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts or that they are financially strapped due to the poor economy.
Yet, they are giving all they can.
“Even if they don’t have cash on hand, they’re finding a way,” she said. “We’ve had people donating toys, pizzas and things like that. It’s a great feeling.”
As reported, keeping the program running requires the generosity of scores of churches and organizations that provide baskets and about $25,000 in cash that is used to purchase $20 food gift cards. Depending on the size of a family they may get more than one card.
Despite the fact that the economy is struggling, she said people are still being generous. One of those people is Lamendola, who said he immediately wanted to help when he read the article in the Beacon.
“The most cruel thing in the world is being hungry,” Lamendola said. “I give my employees turkeys and donate to my church on Thanksgiving. I live in Warwick and Warwick has been very good to me, so I’d like to give something back. If everybody took care of what they can see and touch around them, it would be a lot easier.”
He said he’s simply following in the footsteps of his father, Charles Lamendola Sr., who operates Cal Chemical Corporation in Coventry.
“My father did it for his employees for years,” he said. “He still buys me a turkey, and I’m one of nine [children]. We are very fortunate and lucky.”
Lamendola has four children of his own, including his son, Justin Lamendola, 31, a project manager for Astro. Justin thinks it’s touching that his father made the donation.
“It’s really nice,” Justin said. Lamendola’s wife, Carole, agrees. “He likes to help other people. He sets a great example. In the spirit of Christmas, it’s nice to share with people who are less fortunate. I’m sure it will be appreciated.”
Lamendola, who has lived in the Greenwood section of Warwick for more than 50 years and employs at least 20 Warwick residents, loves his community. Through the years, he’s donated funds and moving services to local causes, such as the Big Sisters of the Ocean State, Catholic Charities and more. He’s pleased to add Neighbors Helping Neighbors to that list.
“It’s a good cause,” Lamendola said. “It’s our neighbors – it’s Warwick.”
Astro of New England, which is based in Exeter, is a full-service moving and storage company that has been in business for more than a dozen years. Learn more about Astro at www.AstroNewEngland.com or call 397-8484.
Checks can be made to Neighbors Helping Neighbors and dropped off or mailed to the Warwick Beacon, 1944 Warwick Ave., Warwick, RI 02889.