There are two words that truly define the essence of Italian Carnevale : the first is maschera , or mask; the second is — of course — Venezia. While...
“Bruno Serato is a wonderful helper, he works at a restaurant called the White House.”
”He is a loving, caring man, who helps people in need. He loves kids and also gives them food.”
“Bruno Serato is a chef, who cooks the best pasta ever!”
“I met him because he helped me and my family.”
“Bruno Serato cooks spaghetti for me. If you want, you can have more and even take some home, because he’s a nice guy.”
Mark, Jessica, Arthur, Alicia, and Bella represent the 1,200 children, who are served free healthy meals every day by Italian chef Bruno Serato, named CNN Hero Of The Year in 2011. Many of them live in motels without a kitchen, while their parents work until late and can’t feed them properly.
“Ten years ago, - Bruno recalls - when my mother Caterina was visiting from Italy, we went together to the Boys and Girls Club in Anaheim to meet a friend of mine, Executive Director Michael Baker. While playing with the kids, she saw one of them eating potato chips and drinking an unhealthy colored fruit juice, which is a regular dinner for them, living in the motel. Moved and compassionate, my mom asked me to cook 60 to-go pasta dishes for all the kids that night and every night after that for a few years. And as the number of Club members increased, I cooked more and more meals”.
Shortly afterwards, he founded Caterina’s Club, a charity based in Orange County and named after his mother. It was a solid organization, until the recession forced Bruno Serato to refinance the White House restaurant in Anaheim along with his own house. Even the Club was at risk, but no kid had to go to sleep hungry, and so he found different ways to keep it alive thanks to the support of his friends and local community. As of today, chef Serato has served over one million meals to unprivileged children.
But how does the initiative work?
The children eat dinner at their afterschool program: staff members pick up the meals from the White House and deliver them to 23 locations, including YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, school sites, churches, etc.
And what is the Welcome Home program?
Over the last few years, I have seen the discomfort of living in a motel, without a kitchen and in an unhealthy environment, when these kids have to take turns studying on the toilet sit. All of this can easily create behavioral disorders and poor student performances. Their parents work all day but still can’t save enough money to move somewhere else, to pay the deposit or the last month’s rent. I have tried to help them move to a real apartment and improve their life condition by contacting experts in the field and raising more funds. So far, we managed to “relocate” 82 families but my target is to reach 100 by the end of this year.
How can we support Caterina’s Club?
All the information regarding donations of money or food (pasta and tomato sauce) and volunteering opportunities can be found by visiting our website www.caterinasclub.org. We are also planning a number of fundraising events, such as black tie dinners with themed music, which represent for us an important occasion to grow and to raise awareness on the results achieved by the Club. On August 30th, at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, we held our 10th Anniversary Fundraiser Red Carpet Gala. On November 13, from 5 am to 10 pm, the KFI Radiothon Fundraiser will take place (in past years, it raised about 160,000 USD and three tons of pasta and a ton and a half of tomato sauce). Finally, on November 28, we will host the spectacular Christmas Tree Lighting that our children love so much.
You have inspired similar projects in New York, Chicago, and Texas. What is your next goal?
My greatest desire is to raise awareness and to engage more and more people on these kids’ urgent need for a normal life, a healthy environment fit for their development, where they can eat cooked meals surrounded by their loving families. Each and every one of us can play a part to build up a better future for them, joining forces and fighting the fear that sometimes paralyzes us. I’m here to guide you through in this effort; I paved the way, now you only need to be brave.