A group of volunteers has been providing meals to frontline workers and live music for long-term care home residents. Stella Acquisto with their efforts to bring joy to some of those hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vaughan Together For Long-Term Care, l’iniziativa italo-canadese che porta cibo, musica e intrattenimento nelle case di riposo per gli anziani alle porte di Toronto.
Jason Polsinelli and Romina Monaco have been friends for more than a decade. A few weeks ago they decided to work together to ease the strain on personal support workers in long-term care facilities and co-founded, Vaughan Together for Long-Term Care. Susan Hay has the story.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, community members Romina Monaco and Jason Polsinellli created and launched Vaughan Together for Long Term Care, an initiative supporting frontline staff and residents by way of prepared meals and musical performances. Launched April 24, a total of 7500 meals donated by local businesses, restaurants and food companies were delivered to Villa Leonardo Gambin, Villa Colombo Vaughan, Mariann Home and St. Bernard’s Residence. This vital initiative was topped off with 374 care packages for the heroes who bravely dedicated themselves to welfare of seniors.
1. Jason Polsinelli (Co-Founder, Vaughan Together), Romina Monaco (Co-Founder, Vaughan Together), Tony Monaco (Z103.5) and musician Carlo Coppola 2. Frontline heroes of Villa Leonardo Gambin 3. Sponsors, Ice Cream Patio 4. Donors Goffredo and Carmela Vittulo (Mosaik Homes) with staff of Nove Ristorante at Richview Manor 5. Romina Monaco, sponsor Piero Carbone (Garden Foods) and Tony Monaco 6. Vaughan Together team with frontline heroes of Villa Colombo Vaughan
In just two months, Jason Polsinelli, Senior Wealth Advisor, Portfolio Manager and Associate Director with Scotia Wealth Management and his grassroots VTLTC initiative have provided a staggering 7,000 meals to frontline heroes.
In the late winter of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world with such uncontrollable force that life as everyone knew it changed almost overnight. One of the most affected by this global crisis were the vulnerable and elderly residing in long-term care facilities, who found themselves in a desperate situation requiring an emergency response from Canadians far and wide. Rising to the challenge in the city of Vaughan, Ont., was Jason Polsinelli, Senior Wealth Advisor, Portfolio Manager and Associate Director with Scotia Wealth Management, and his grassroots Vaughan Together For Long-Term Care initiative. The mission of this impromptu project, launched April 24, is to provide relief in the form of food donations, and within a two- month period a staggering 7,000 meals were served to front-line heroes at five facilities: Villa Colombo Vaughan, The Mariann Home, Villa Leonardo Gambin, St. Bernard’s Residence and Richview Manor.
“I couldn’t stand back. I watched the stories unfold in the beginning and saw our most vulnerable get hit with this crisis. My father is in a long-term care facility with dementia, so the story really hit home for me, and I decided to do something,” says Polsinelli, who took the bull by the horns and immediately reached out to long-time friend and fellow community advocate, Romina Monaco. Joining forces, they created this vital and necessary initiative to support the city’s seniors and their long- term health-care providers. “I wanted to assist the heroes who are actually helping our most vulnerable. Providing food and other things to these front-line champions who fight this battle every day within the residences was the best gesture I thought we could do to help,” he explains.
Spiking staff shortages along with the isolation of seniors caused distress not only within the long-term care system, but also for families who are separated from their loved ones. Tragic news headlines and a sense of solidarity had Vaughan Together co-founders answering daily calls from friends and businesses, asking how they could assist in order to ease the strain. “It’s a great initiative that just snowballed with a whole bunch of people and businesses from the community coming together and helping,” explains Polsinelli.
Partnering with food companies and local restaurants, Vaughan Together delivered prepared meals to front-line staff working overtime in extremely stressful conditions. “They were absolutely exhausted,” says Monaco. “Offering ready-made meals lightened the load, and they were able to forge on and care for our seniors. We could just see their stress lifting when we arrived, especially on the days we had music,” she adds, referring to Vaughan Together’s outdoor performances showcasing celebrated Toronto musicians Carlo Coppola, Claudio Santaluce and Marco Stornelli. “Staff would come outside to dance, while residents who had been confined to their rooms for almost two months were out on their balconies or enjoying the music by their windows. We wanted them to know they weren’t alone in this, and it was amazing to see their spirits rise through the power of music.”
Polsinelli says Vaughan Together owes a tremendous amount to the food donors who, despite the critical challenges facing their industry due to COVID-19, stepped up to the plate to give time and resources with some cooking on- location at the facilities. Generous partners include: Classic Group, Ice Cream Patio, Pizza Nova, Hero Certified Burgers, Cataldi Fresh Market, Shoeless Joe’s Sports Grill, Cristina’s Tortina Shop, Tutto Gourmet Foods, Pasta It Forward, Di Manno Bakery, Ida Vivacqua Realtor and noted chefs Gianni Ceschia and Luciano Schipano.
In addition to regular meal deliveries, one of the facilities benefiting from the magical live shows is Villa Leonardo Gambin (VLG). “At the height of their loneliness and isolation, many residents of VLG were brought to tears by the uplifting parking-lot concerts that Romina and Jason arranged, featuring music reminiscent of better days,” states the facility’s board chair, Andrew Iacobelli. “We are incredibly grateful to Vaughan Together for recognizing the devastating effects of COVID-19 on long-term care
and rallying the community to step up and support those most directly affected by this awful virus.” Echoing this emotion is Magdalena Di Maria, general manager of Richview Manor. “This has all been very special and important to our residents and staff,” says Di Maria. “We have to remember that many of them have been practically taken away from their families. Working long hours and not being able to see their loved one has been very difficult.” Special thank you to our other donors, Mosaik Homes, Z103.5, Goffredo and Robert Vitullo and Lesley Scott, your support was immensely appreciated.
To give is greater than to receive, and the inspiring, philanthropic and dedicated co-founders of Vaughan Together mirror this age-old proverbial expression. “I have been blessed with all the opportunity that Vaughan, its businesses and residents have given me over the years,” says Polsinelli. “Giving back from a grassroots level is a big part of city and community building, and I am proud, in a small way, to be a part of that.”