Helping Others Helps Her – The Vitanova Foundation
Founded by Franca Carella, the Vitanova Foundation has been a fixture of Vaughan for over three decades as it has provided treatment and rehabilitation to those dealing with substance abuse.
When I met with Franca Carella for our interview she was sat behind a huge wooden desk that made her look small, but after speaking with her for only a few minutes that initial image flew right out the window.
It started 31 years ago, when Carella was inspired to sell the Italian-English health magazine, VitaSana, that she co-founded after receiving numerous letters from her readers asking for help and advice with their children. Franca knew this wasn’t just a generational issue, but rather that these young people were being influenced by substances.
From there she started her own foundation, Vitanova, to devote her energies to alcohol and drug rehabilitation. “[Addiction] doesn’t affect just the families of these people but to me it affects everyone, because it makes it a sick society, and I think we can change that,” she says.
After visiting many other treatment centres in the United States and Europe, Carella realized those programs weren’t helping. She designed her own program that is focused on the personal journey of each client, helping those that struggle with substance abuse, other addictions and anger management.
Offering free services, medical assistance and even a focus on after-care, her foundation has been able to help over 16,000 clients attain their own success since 1987. It was also determined that 82 per cent of Vitanova’s clients are successful in their recovery from alcohol and/or drug abuse according to a four-year-long study by Professor Richard Volpe, PhD, of the University of Toronto, which helps solidify that Carella’s method works.
Though this foundation is small with an even smaller budget, Carella has big plans for the future. She hopes to construct a chapel to allow Catholics and those of all other denominations a place where they can practise their faith. She also plans on creating a similar treatment centre and program specifically designed for women that will allow them to stay with their children even while undergoing treatment.
With tears in her eyes she reveals her inspiration to me: as a child she was placed in a concentration camp with her mother. “I thought that we were in a prison,” she says. “So when I met the addicts I thought they [too] are in their own prison, they can’t use their own mind because it’s altered with substance, so if I made it out of that environment then I have to help them to get out of their prison.”
As an accredited foundation, Vitanova has been presented with many awards over the years, the most recent being the Philanthropic Business Person of the Year Award that Carella received at the 2018 Business Achievement Awards. “I’m glad that I was chosen because I could stand there and tell them what I’m doing and ask them to support the organization, to help us help them rehabilitate,” she says. “That’s what counts for me.”