It all started with Rita Ungaro-Schiavone’s idea of providing food and friendship.
Rita had long been active in many social issues across Philadelphia. As part of her work for the Cardinal’s Commission on Human Relations at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Rita founded the Community Food Distribution Program.
After leaving the Archdiocese, Rita volunteered at the Frankford YWCA helping seniors in the community. Struck by the isolation and desperate needs of those she encountered, Rita began bringing frozen home-cooked meals with her as she visited. Struggling with loneliness, despair, and physical suffering, many of those that Rita met with had serious health issues that were exacerbated by emotional distress, lack of human interaction, and an inadequate diet.
Rita could clearly see that her visits made a huge impact on the quality of life of her clients. Realizing that the need was greater than her personal ability to address it, Rita enlisted the help of her friends in the Christian Family Movement, fellow parishioners from St. Jerome, and members and leadership of the Frankford YWCA.
Expanding others’ awareness through speaking to community groups and in churches across the city and suburbs of Philadelphia, Rita grew Aid for Friends, now known as Caring for Friends, from its fledgling roots in 1 small section in northeast Philadelphia to its current expanded operation throughout the 5-county greater Philadelphia region.
Thanks to Rita’s advocacy, the efforts of 16,000 volunteers, and 14,000 grateful client friends, Caring for Friends™ currently has a network of more than 250 meal centers and religious organizations. In addition to the home visits and meal deliveries, Caring for Friends provides aid and advocacy, including caregiver support, safety assessments, and other assistance, to help our friends to remain in their own homes and maintain their independence.
A new chapter
In 2019, the name of our organization formally changed to Caring for Friends. The shift in name better reflects our mission and what we do on a daily basis. It also better conveys the caring spirit of our organization and the motivation of our volunteers.