Rita Ungaro-Schiavone (Founder) and her husband Michael
With nothing more than an extra serving from her family’s dinner, some aluminum foil and a heart called to help those in need, Rita Ungaro-Schiavone founded Aid For Friends in 1974.
Struck by the isolation and desperate need of those she met through her work with the Frankford YWCA , Rita began bringing frozen home-cooked meals with her as she visited her shut-in clients. Struggling with loneliness, despair, and physical suffering, many of Rita’s clients had no friends or families to share their burdens and help care for them. Health issues – many of them very serious – were exacerbated by emotional distress, lack of human interaction, and an inadequate diet. They were alone and hungry – lacking for basic needs like human contact and nutritious food. Rita saw 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, parishioners from her home parish of St. Jerome and members and leadership of the Frankford YWCA. Through her continued advocacy for this cause, speaking in churches and to community groups across the city and suburbs of Philadelphia, Rita grew Aid for Friends from its fledgling roots in one parish in Northeast Philadelphia to its current operation throughout the five-county region over a network of more than 200 churches, synagogues and community meal centers. In addition to the home visits and meal deliveries, AFF provides aid and advocacy, including caregiver support, safety assessments, and other assistance as needed, to help our friends survive in their own homes and maintain their independence.
More than 15 million meals, 16,000 volunteers and 14,000 client friends later, Aid For Friends continues the work Rita started – providing food and friendship to those in need.