East Passyunk Crossing donates Thanksgiving meals


“I hope the employees know they are going to have to restock when we are done,” Millie Ruffino said as she emptied three shelves of instant potatoes at ShopRite, 29 Snyder Ave., Monday.

A resident of the 1100 block of Emily Street and the East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association and Town Watch treasurer, Ruffino marked her fifth year of sating area households by again blessing the Pennsport store with an example of her humanitarianism.

Displaying equal altruism, Josephine Cardillo, an inhabitant of the 1800 block of South 11th Street and East Passyunk Crossing’s recording secretary, helped Ruffino to fill five carts with food that the Philadelphia Access Center, 1832 S. 11th St., soon after delivered to 16 disadvantaged families comprising 74 individuals.

For three years, the center, whose numerous means to reflect its Christian identity include procuring provisions for hungry homes, has assisted the civic’s charitable giving committee. Ruffino and Cardillo received its list of in-crisis clans Friday and determined needs Saturday.

“It just feels good to help people, no matter their situation,” Cardillo, holding a sheet bearing sought items, said.

Most of the center’s selections reside within her civic group’s expanse that spans Broad to Eighth streets from Tasker Street to Snyder Avenue, though she and Ruffino have gone to other South Philly sections and to Kensington.

“We have no problem stepping outside of our boundaries,” Ruffino, who along with Cardillo and events and marketing chair Pat Pitt graced the recipients with the goods themselves for the first four years, said.

A prior commitment kept Pitt, of the 1900 block of South Sartain Street, from joining her colleagues, but the ladies’ ambition remained fervent. ShopRite, whose Partners In Caring program has helped the charitable endeavors of the CATCH Specialized Care Facility, 521-23 Snyder Ave.; The Doe Fund, 1211 Bainbridge St.; My Brother’s House, 609 S. 15th St.; Philabundance, 3616 S. Galloway St.; and St. Gabriel Food Cupboard, 2917 Dickinson St., waived its restrictions on purchasing set quantities of products for the pair.

Sweet potatoes became their carts’ first companions, producing delightful thuds as the women loaded 25 cans. After their yams addition, knowing the center would help by acquiring turkeys, they found the perfect poultry complement — gravy. Fifty-eight cans later, the duo pursued one of the kings in the carbohydrate hierarchy — boxed stuffing.

“We have a scientific system,” Cardillo said of making apt choices quickly.

She and Ruffino also have excellent neighbors. More than two dozen of them donated funds, so the figures arrived with a $300 budget. The morning crowd, though cramped, made no hubbub, as holiday spirit tempered any frustration. The mood also reinforced for Ruffino why she participates.

“There are so many people who are too poor to be rich and others who are too rich to be poor,” she said. “This is our way of filling in some of the needs of the community.”

She and Cardillo stationed their first fertile cart at the front of the store and busied themselves with introducing cranberry sauce, instant potatoes, green beans, corn and rolls to the second. They found just enough room to add 13 bags of McIntosh apples and 12 of navel oranges before sending their second container to the head of the building.

“Now it’s time for pies,” Ruffino said as she wheeled another cart to the aromatic bakery section.

Thanksgiving staples, pumpkin pies appealed to her and Cardillo, but only apple and blueberry versions adorned the display area. The two worked their charm and had 25 tempting pumpkin pies brought from the workers’ area.

“We’re done,” Cardillo said. “Let’s get in line.”

Among the city’s civics, the Cardillo’s five-year-old entity, with Darren Fava, of the 1100 block of Emily Street and Joseph F. Marino, of the 1900 block of South Jessup Street, as co-chairs, has positioned itself as a neighborhood titan.

The Greater Philadelphia Area Coat Drive benefits from its philanthropy every January, with 68 slightly worn or new coats helping to combat the cold last winter. A children’s book fair at St. Nicholas of Tolentine School, 913 Pierce St., proves its educational advocacy, and the impending Christmas season will give an ultimate symbol of its goodwill. Annunciation B.V.M., 1511 S. 10th St.; Epiphany of Our Lord, 1121 Jackson St.; and St. Nicholas churches provide East Passyunk Crossing with the names of needy families throughout the year, and the civic tends to the units by endowing them with gift cards for use in pharmacies, supermarkets, toy stores and other establishments and with clothes and toys.

“I have cried on occasions when becoming aware of the families’ joy,” Ruffino said of the Christmas benevolence.

Marino joined his dear friends briefly Monday and lauded their natures.

“I am amazed at their diligence and hard work,” he said. “They are an example to other EPX board members and all nonprofit boards in South Philly.”

Marino also dubbed them “excellent models of volunteerism.” Such figures usually need to exercise patience, and the ladies had their chance to prove persistent as they positioned their three carts in the checkout line. The adventure’s 44 bags of food required them to grab two more carts for safe transport out of the store.

As Ruffino tended to the bagging, Cardillo unburdened the carts. The former received a great surprise as the final items hit the belt, with store owner James Colligas greeting and presenting her with $150 to put toward the order.

“This is fantastic,” Cardillo said. “Thank you so much.”

“I am glad we can help out,” Colligas said. “Good luck.”

With everything scanned, Cardillo and Ruffino peered at the pre-donation total, $449.95. Minus Colligas’ offering, the amount came to $299.95, a budgetary bonus.

“We are so grateful to ShopRite for its help,” Ruffino said as the 20-minute exit ended and the more rapid loading of her vehicle began.

Always looking to address quality of life issues, Cardillo deemed the center a great ally, as its roster of social services matches up with the association’s ambition to give the neighborhood’s dwellers self-sufficiency. She and Ruffino traveled to the center following their caloric crusade and organized their purchases on a table sturdy enough to support their mass.

The ladies beat the turkey suppliers to the location, but the complete gifts met the families that afternoon. Though they did not perform the distribution themselves, the helpers nonetheless enjoyed their tasks.

“We are so grateful to our members and neighborhood restaurants that help us to raise funds,” Ruffino said.

Her purchasing partner adopted a reflective attitude.

“Anytime we relieve someone’s unease,” Cardillo said, “we feel so blessed.”

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com or ext. 124.