One of the great humanitarians that the borough has produced passed.
Beatrice Castiglia-Catullo, who founded Regional Aid For Interim Needs, an organization better known as R.A.I.N. that offers a wide variety of services to seniors and people of all ages, passed away at the age of 101-years-old.
Castiglia-Catullo founded the social services juggernaut on a shoe-string budget in 1964 after getting a $500 donation, and since then it has grown into an organization with 20 programs, including 11 senior centers, meals-on-wheels outreach and a program helping those afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease.
In the 1960s she was working as a nurse at Westchester Square Hospital and wanted to start an organization that took care of patients who were getting discharged when she received a donation from Monroe Lovinger that turned into seed money to start the organization, said Dr. Anderson Torres, R.A.I.N. CEO.
Torres said that Castiglia-Catullo was deeply influenced by her Catholic faith, and decided to start R.A.I.N. while going through a difficult time in her life when she took in her ailing mother-in-law while raising three children in a Parkchester apartment.
She prayed to God, asking for an intercession in her difficulties, promising to dedicate her life to helping others if she was able to find a way forward.
“Bea was a selfless lady who made a promise to God and kept that promise,” said Torres, adding that she continues to inspire the organization.
“She would say that R.A.I.N. is a shower of services,” said the CEO, indicating that he would always remember her as a fearless lady.
“She taught me to face fear,” said Torres. “She said there is nothing you cannot do and nothing you should fear because with God all things are possible.”
Castiglia-Catullo started R.A.I.N. as a voluntary organization that survived on small community contributions for about a decade, eventually landing a contract from the NYC Department for the Aging in 1975 to provide home care services in community boards 9 and 10 in the east Bronx.
She adhered to a philosophy of relying upon the resources available in the community to provide a consistently high level of care for older community residents, according to a biography.
In 1987, she became the first woman to become a member of the Rotary Club of the Bronx.
Her friend and long-time club member Dr. Arthur Wolstein introduced her to the organization.
Sandy Wolstein, the doctor’s daughter-in-law and current club president said that Castiglia-Catullo was involved in one way or another in all efforts of the organization for the past 30 years.
These included cleaning the Bronx River, a program bringing local children on trips to Bermuda to teach them life skills, ending Polio around the world, sponsoring scholarships and working to bring sick children to the United States to have complicated surgeries unavailable in their countries.
She was Rotary Club of the Bronx president from 2000 to 2001, according to Wolstein.
Wolstein said the she will remember Castiglia-Catullo’s compassion.
“I will remember most her kindness,” said Wolstein. “She always said to me ‘don’t create conflict.’”
She prized beauty and had immaculate hair, makeup and clothes, said Wolstein, adding that Castiglia-Catullo joked that she did not want to die without a manicure.
The cause of death was a brain tumor, friends said. Wolstein added that she was in great health until the tumor was detected in December.
Additionally, Bea was a devoted Bronx Times reader, who received the paper at her home, and also had it mailed to Rosary Hill Home in Westchester County where she was cared for in her final months, stated R.A.I.N.’s Mariangela La Franca in an email.
“She loved reading it and would always tell me to get R.A.I.N. in the paper every week,” stated La Franca.
She was a St. Francis Third Order member for decades, part of a group of lay people devoting themselves to the Catholic faith.
Bob Nolan, a former aid to borough presidents Fernando Ferrer and Adolfo Carrion, said that no one had a greater impact on the borough in the past 50 years than Castiglia-Catullo.