TORONTO - It was a celebration of community spirit and perseverance. The ribbon-cutting, official opening and dedication of the new Meta Centre, the James De Zen Centre of Abilities, at the Veneto Centre in Vaughan, drew a large and respectful crowd of politicos, supporters and families of clients.
And well they should have. The Meta Centre has grown from humble beginnings as a volunteer group of families who established a parent support group to provide respite care and share resources to build a better future for their, then children, sons and daughters coping with the challenges of developmental delay.
The terminologies have changed many times since those early days when, with the approval of the Board and the Franciscans, I was privileged to provide them with temporary facilities at James Cardinal Mc Guigan, in 1983.
I noted that of the original families, Giuliana Marrone, Mrs. Provenzano and the Perricone are still active. Their children, now grown men, somehow came to say hello. They are examples of what might have remained unlocked, but for the vision of people like their parents, Aldo Colangelo, Grazia Molisse and Mimma Regina, the Centre’s first full time employee and guiding administrator.
When the Centre moved into its own facility, in 1986, thanks to then MPP Joe Cordiano, Mimma became relentless in her pursuit of A-based funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services. She hired staff like the current director, Antonetta Orlando, built a “professional board” and alliances with government officials and the business community.
Vic De Zen’s group was the earliest and most steadfast, from 1987 onward. He made it his preferred not for profit/charitable donee organization of choice. It became a project that engaged his entire family, including his son James and his partner-employees like Lou Galasso.
He always delivered on his commitments to the Meta Centre with in-kind contributions and financial resources. Most of all he brought others like Tony Guglietti into the network.
By the early ’90s The Meta Centre grew to be the biggest and most influential community-based Centre for programmes dedicated to citizens and families with special needs and unlocked human potential.
Equipped with a budget reliant exclusively on familial desire to overcome societal obstacles for their children, today, the Meta Centre enjoys the benefits of a $20 million annual budget, the professional dedicated services of Government, and, both the generosity and support of the business community.
The Meta Centre could only have one name on its wall in recognition of these 35 years of history. Grazia Molisse and Mimma Regina, now both deceased, would have wanted it to be De Zen. Vic and his wife Angelina humbly accepted the full name would be the “James De Zen Centre of Abilities” in honor of their son.