Italian Disaster Relief Fund forms in Belmont to help earthquake victims

(l-r) Phil Marino, Belmont BID executive director; Councilman Ritchie Torres and John Sanchez, Community Board 6 district manager at the announcement regarding Italian earthquake relief at the Belmont Library on Friday, August 26.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

The borough’s ‘Little Italy’ community is coming together to help the victims of an earthquake in Italy.

Councilman Ritchie Torres, the Belmont Business Improvement District and Community Board 6 have established a relief fund for the victims of an earthquake that affected an area north of Rome on Wednesday, August 24.

The Italian Disaster Relief Fund’s formation was announced at the Belmont Public Library on Friday, August 26.

“The earthquake has claimed at least 250 lives, there are reports that the death toll continues to rise and thousands of people have been displaced,” said Torres during the conference, adding “This has particular resonance in Arthur Avenue and Little Italy because many of the residents and business owners have attachments to Italy, and the very vitality and identity of this neighborhood is owed to the people of Italy.”

“The three of us will make every effort to collect donations for those in dire need in Italy,” added the councilman.

The councilman said that he would personally be calling people to solicit donations on behalf of the people in need.

John Sanchez, CB 6 district manager, said about the effort that if something affects one community in the district, it affects them all.

“It was vital that we give back in some way,” said Sanchez, citing a significant Italian population and influence both in CB 6, and in New York City itself, which is home to the largest Italian-American population in North America.

Donations can be made at the board office, he said.

He will also be making an announcement about the Italian Relief effort during his first full, general board meeting on Wednesday, September 14.

“It will be the first board meeting when the board reconvenes, so I think it will be the perfect opportunity to give people the information,” said Sanchez.

Marino said that he was getting a lot of questions and comments regarding what could be done to help the victims.

“It was sad and people wanted know what they could do,” said Marino. “I know New Yorkers…and when chips are down, we are here to help.”

Marino said he had e-mailed people about the relief effort, and that collections were expected during the BID’s upcoming Ferragosto celebration on Sunday, September 11, which will run from noon to 6 p.m.

The organization that was to have been the conduit for the donations, the Italian Consulate General, cannot accept donations, a Torres spokesman stated after the press conference.

As of press time on Tuesday, August 30, a Torres spokesman said that donations should be made to Italian American Relief Fund at www.italianamericanrelief.org.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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