COSTI’s Ralph Chiodo Family Immigrant Reception Centre

COSTI’s newly renovated downtown building will now be known as The Ralph Chiodo Family Immigrant Reception Centre. The edifice at 100 Lippincott Street was built 90 years ago, and for the past 22 years has offered temporary shelter to over 15,000 refugees. The building is being re-named today after the well-known Calabrian entrepreneur, Ralph Chiodo, president of Active Green & Ross and head of Peel Chrysler Fiat, who donated $300,000 towards renovations. The project, costing $3 million, was completed thanks to contributions by the federal and provincial governments, each donating $1 million to COSTI. The remaining $1 million comes from fundraising by several entities in the private sector such as Fausto Gaudio’s Banca Italiana IC Savings.

130 people gathered in front of the historic building for the ribbon cutting. Also present were Don Meredith, and Charles Souse, the Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

“This is a big day for us. We’ve been waiting many years to renovate the centre which has been in operation for 22 years,” affirms Mario Calla, executive director of COSTI. “It was in bad condition recently. The federal and provincial governments came to the rescue, as well as, obviously, the great contribution by Ralph Chiodo and his family, and the support of IC Savings. Today it’s a safe and comfortable centre for refugees who come to us directly from the airport. It’s their first home, so we want it to be the best possible.”

The structure offers a fundamental service for those arriving to Canada with refugee status.

“This structure has 42 bedrooms and can accommodate 100 persons,” comments Yasmine Dossal, social services director for COSTI. “Refugees remain here about 10 to 15 days, we help find them a stable arrangement, as well as offer them food and assistance. We receive about 850 people a year. It took us about a year to renovate the building. We’re happy and proud of these accommodations. Anyone coming here has the right to get the best assistance possible.”

Chiodo is involved almost full time in the social services sector – with Pasta Festa for example, a charity event he organizes annually that has raised over one million dollars for the Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga over seven years. The Calabrian entrepreneur explains the reason for his contribution to COSTI.

“The Honourable Frank Iacobucci (former Supreme Court judge, and member of COSTI’s administrative council) asked me to make a donation for this important building, and I couldn’t come short. COSTI represents immigrants and I’m an immigrant. Years ago I found myself having to go to school to obtain a work permit and COSTI was ready to help me. Then, I didn’t need to do that course, but either way I’m still grateful.”

As of today, the Reception Centre is named after him – a name that will forever remain in the community’s history.

“I received much in my life, and this is the right opportunity to give back a bit of my fortune to the community,” Chiodo continues. “There are many generous people in this magnificent country who deserve it. I left Italy with an empty cardboard suitcase, then I had some good luck and now the moment has come to pay back.” Chiodo admits to having gained much satisfaction from his life related to social services, and COSTI is one of these. “I had the fortune of being part of the organization of Pier 21, which has become a national museum. Then came COSTI, which gives me great pleasure, and I hope to be able to continue to help these people.”