Montrealers raise $80,000 for Italy quake relief

Two 6-year-old twins cracked open their piggy bank and donated $9.12.

An elderly widow dropped by the Centre Leonardo da Vinci on Saturday and cut a $1,000 cheque.

Such is the generosity of Montreal’s Italian community, which has so far collected more than $80,000 toward the relief and recovery effort under way in the earthquake-ravaged region of Abruzzo, Italy.

“We Italians may have a lot of faults, but in a moment of tragedy we always pull together and we’ve demonstrated how solid the community is,” said Ivana Bombardieri, who hosted a radiothon on Good Friday on CFMB AM 1280.

The radiothon raised $61,000, and organizers are hoping that another one to be held on Wednesday will help them reach their goal of $1 million. So far, most of the donations have come from individuals and families, and organizers are counting on businesses to come forward in the coming days, Bombardieri said.

“I’ve demanded that the organizers be absolutely transparent about the fundraising,” she added. “We want the money to reach its destination.”

A coalition of Italian community groups has set up a fund called SOS Abruzzo to help rebuild destroyed and damaged property in the city of L’Aquila and surrounding villages. The donations will be kept in trust by the Fondation communautaire canadienne-italienne du Québec until it is transferred to the Italian Red Cross Society.

Italian Red Cross rescue teams were on the scene of the disaster an hour after the earthquake struck on April 6 in L’Aquila, 120 kilometres northeast of Rome. The death toll Sunday rose to 294 people, including 16 children.

More than 1,500 people have been injured and about 28,000 have been left homeless.

The Canadian Red Cross has established an agreement with the Italian Red Cross to direct donations for the relief effort.

“With this agreement, …Canadians will be able to express their solidarity with those affected,” said Conrad Sauvé, secretary general of the Canadian Red Cross. “We will gratefully accept their donations to support our sister Red Cross society.”

Guido Piccone, head of the Associazione Famiglia Abruzzese, said Sunday that aftershocks are still being felt in the region.

“They’re still cleaning the streets,” Piccone said. “People are still scared. But they’re also happy with what the government has been doing.

“With all this sadness, we see that our community is very close,” he added of the Montreal fundraising effort.