“Ding dong the witch is dead”,
Villa Charities in chaos

di Joe Volpe del 2 March 2021

TORONTO - Not since the collapse of the ill-conceived, ill-fated massive condominium redevelopment project for the Columbus Centre, in 2018, has the Corriere Canadese been deluged with so many emails and expressions of joy and delights of “ding-dong the witch is dead”. It was a bitter- sweet reaction of relief then as it is a hollow effusion of victory today. Even if Anthony Di Caita is indeed gone.

The former CEO of Villa Charities and Villa Charities Inc found himself unceremoniously ousted from his sinecure when the Board of Governors issued a terse letter, on February 25, announcing his departure “effective immediately”.

The Governors had finally said “enough!”

Too late, in the eyes of the callers. Di Caita is possessed of a personality unsuited to the work of a community-centered, social- cultural organization.

Its original vision was to provide leadership and service nurtured in the ambition of the collective spirit that drove its establishment and flowering at the northwest quadrant of 901 Lawrence Ave. W. That vision, hacked and harrowed into rubble, will not easily be resurrected. It is not all his fault.

He was, as the saying goes, merely following orders. With the bulk of the Founders either deceased or transferred to Forest Hill, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Caledon and places beyond, their scions became standard-bearers for a different culture: one characterized by membership in the “Lamborghini Brigade” and the “Clusterhood of Condominium Developers” – both have intrinsic value. Within five years, Villa Charities became a fading shadow of its former self.

It lost, or expelled, the Centro Scuola and its world-renowned library of Dante’s literary works; abandoned and decommissioned anything of artistic and iconic value, including its presepi, in the Carrier Gallery; de-Italianized the celebrated Boccaccio restaurant and Caffè Cinquecento; ran the Athletic Club “into the ground”; caused the fracturing of the relationship with its “affiliates” (Vita Community Living and Mens Sana). That was before Covid-19.

An organization that built its character and reputation on creating a multigenerational environment in the community with special service to seniors, is now the defendant in a large class action lawsuit because of the high death rate among its long-term care patients in Vaughan and Toronto.

Through all the turmoil, the “management team”, as per publicly available reports through Canada Revenue Agency, appears to have been “able to take care of itself”.

The annual compensation for its CEO exceeded $300,000 and the amount allocated for Administration accounted for 2.5 times what former affiliates (Vita Community Living and Mens Sana) set aside. They are still in the service business. Villa Charities is little more than a landlord of a fast-depreciating asset.

Until “new blood” infuses new energies, it is no longer an organization that can claim to speak for the community. The interim CEO, Di Caita’s sidekick, refused comment.

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