Angela and Danny Iannuzziello say Reena has been a godsend to their family. The siblings have been involved with Reena since the 1980’s. “Reena helped to settle our family in a time of crisis,” says Angela. “Reena helped us understand what was going on with my little brother Franco and how he was to live in the community and provided the support to help us realize what Franco’s real needs were.” The Iannuzziello’s father died when Franco was 12 years old and they were in their early twenties, “My brother and I committed to stay in the family home until we found a place for Franco because we could not imagine my mother continuing to care for Franco on her own.” At the time, the Italian community could not help them, according to Danny, and then they met Sandy Keshen. “Sandy was tremendous to our family in our time of need.” Angela says Sandy’s wise words back then still resonate today. “She told me ‘You need to let Franco lead the life he wants to live and not the life you want him to live.’ And that for me has been a lifelong lesson, not just for Franco, but for everyone.” Angela became involved in a number of committees and says Sandy’s words influenced her work at Reena. “I was chairing the quality-of-care committee in the 80’s and I insisted on having two residents on that committee. And one evening the professionals around the table were debating for hours the definition of quality of care and David (the individual sitting on the committee) said… I don’t know what you’re talking about, all we want is parties on Friday nights.” Today, Angela says whenever she in the midst of lots of discussion in both her professional and personal life, she asks, ‘so what’s the party on Friday night of this conversation? ‘Angela eventually became the first non-Jewish chair of the Reena Board.
“For me,” says Danny about his work with Reena, “It was a way of giving back…I started on the financial committee but I was in the housing business so there was a fit with Batay Reena.” Danny, who eventually became Chair of Batay Reena, was involved in the creation of Reena’s first home for seniors with diverse abilities, The Faye and Al Mintz Elder home. The unique project was a memorable one for Danny, “Reena was, and probably still is, ahead of their time, in terms of some of the things that they were thinking about, and it allowed people like us to try and accomplish things. We had a good group of people around the table that were well versed in different areas that helped you move forward with some of those challenges.” His work at Reena has also led Danny to some very emotional moments including speaking about his brother at a Gala Dinner which moved so many and helped generate much needed funds.
Through Reena, the Iannuzziello’s say Franco has lived the best years of his life. “I wish that Reena will continue to bring to the members of our community, those that are being served, and to the many, many more who are not being served, the quality of life, the respect and the place in society that all of them deserve,” says Angela.
Franco Iannuzziello is 56 years old and lives in a group home in Queensville, Ontario.