(January 25, 2021) At La Casa de Don Pedro, the Basile Family is a household name. La Casa’s most longstanding supporter and master of food and toy drives is Annie Basile. Each holiday season, together with her network of dozens of extended family and friends, Annie has been spreading joy and cheer to La Casa’s children and families for the past 14 years.
Annie’s family is rooted in Newark. Her parents emigrated to Newark from Italy in search of new opportunity. They built a home and raised a family that eventually settled in Newark’s surrounding communities.
Fourteen years ago, family friend and former La Casa Board Member, Nicholas Scalera, introduced the Basiles to La Casa de Don Pedro. It was an instant a “perfect match”. “We loved the idea of giving back to an organization that took care of the people of a city that meant so much to us, a city that my family has such fond memories of,” Annie said.
Collecting and delivery toys to La Casa’s early childhood learners were a natural fit for Annie and her vast network of family and friends Initially, each year Annie and her community would donate 75 gifts for La Casa’s children at 75 Park Avenue Early Childhood Center. But about six years ago when another early childhood center was in need toys, Annie and her team came through. Now, for the past several years her network has donated such a plethora of gifts that they have always been able to extend them to children in many more centers, siblings of the children, as well as the early childhood teachers, averaging no less than 300 toys each year.
In order to accomplish the lofty goal, Annie hosts get togethers and coordinates with other charitable groups to collect donations. This year, however, COVID-19 changed those plans. Despite the odds, Annie was as determined as ever to persevere in order to make a difference during these difficult times.
This year the Basiles relied on social media to spread the word. A simple post on her town’s Facebook forum, Mountainside Matters, soon turned into hundreds of donations. “It was incredible how many people responded to the post. My community showed up in a very big way this year”, said Annie. With the help of her “elves” as well as local businesses like Basilico, Seabra Foods, and Smart Buy Natural Foods, The Basiles donated more toys than ever before. An incredible 789! And they collected and sorted thousands of pounds of non-perishable groceries and frozen meats to support La Casa’s #GivingTuesday Food Drive.
While the holiday performances, Santa photo opts, and the traditional passing out of gifts with the Basile family were cancelled this year, Annie’s ultimate goal was sustained: personal service and demonstrating to her children the value of giving to others. “La Casa offers so many opportunities for people to give back. There’s nothing better than the sense of fulfillment we feel after a day of volunteering at La Casa. I love that I can share that with my family!”
Annie Basile would like to acknowledge the following individuals and organizations for their efforts: Mario DeMarco; Antonio Seabra; Wakefern Food Corporation; Michael Melnick; Karen & Dion Malet; Drive Auto Works; Jodi Alvater and Friends; Jessica Keleher and Friends; Community members in Mountainside, Kenilworth, Warren, Westfield, and Scotch Plains; Central Jersey Fillies Softball Organization; Tara Melchionne and Erica Lermond of The Lermond Company/WFFC/International Flavors & Fragrance; Muffy & Sil Basile; Iris Rispoli; Anne & Dominick Petracca; Sheila & Lou Alfano; Mr. John Basil; Vicky & Michael Basile; Jennifer Aponte; and Tara Felitto.
#GivingTuesday Fun Fact: It was Annie and her extended family and friends who inspired La Casa de Don Pedro to embark on an annual #GivingTuesday Toy Drive. Built on Annie’s generosity, La Casa expanded the toy drive in 2012 to make sure all La Casa children could receive a holiday gift. La Casa then paired the annual toy drive with a food drive when Annie and family committed to also collect and sort food. This is how La Casa’s annual #GivingTuesday Holiday Toy and Food Drive was conceived.