By Timothy Chipp email@example.com
Niagara Gazette — Peter Castiglione is quiet. He’s a quiet father to his children and grandchildren and a quiet husband to his wife, Eleanor. He often turns his television on, sits on his chair and catches up on the local and national news without ever opening his mouth.
But for one day a week three months every year, the 85-and-a-half-year-old Lewiston resident leaves his personality on the chair while he heads to the entryway of Artpark in the name of charity. And the nuns who run the Heart & Soul Food Pantry are all the more happy.
“This is the one thing he just loves to do,” his daughter, Jane Killewald, said. “This takes him out of himself and allows him to contribute to others.”
Everyone around him says he’s a different kind of person on Tuesday Artpark concert nights, when he collects money from visiting attendees for the Falls pantry. It’s like a transformation.
Not only for himself, though. Everyone around him tends to brighten up just with his presence. whether it’s the little children coming down the hill, excited just to attend the shows, or the volunteers collecting right alongside him, the mood is exponentially brighter.
A couple years ago, the outlook wasn’t as sunny for Castiglione nor his collection cup. Following a back surgery, he was unable to collect at all in 2011. The situation left him a little less spry, a little more gray.
But he was able to recover enough to return in 2012 and again in 2013. And Sister Beth Bosmer, who runs Heart & Soul, which Castiglione’s generosity benefits, said their “main man” said he’s a star.
“Telling everyone, ‘A dollar goes a long way,’ he’s a special star during the concert evenings,” she said before honoring Castiglione for his service recently. “In fact, many of the ladies will only give a donation if they can give it to Pete, who usually collects lots of hugs as well. There is only one Pete and we are so grateful he belongs to Heart & Soul.”
A typical summer Tuesday for Castiglione involves a handful of candies and a pair of arms ready to envelope his friends in those hugs as many times as possible. Remember, this is a quiet man. He spends his other days enjoying the news more than a conversation. “I’m not used to talking about myself,” he jokes.
But there’s something different about helping the children who come down the hill, looking for a bit of a sweet payoff for their parents’ dollar bills and coins. Or the wheelchair-bound girls, sometimes forced to rely on others but always glad to be at Artpark, he said.
Heart & Soul isn’t the only time he’s ever helped anyone, though. The retired carpenter, who helped build the house on Elliott Drive he calls home today, volunteered for more than a decade in North Tonawanda, at a different pantry. His wife continues to help at the place to this day, though he had to stop.
What does it all mean? Well, the amount of hurt in the world speaks to him. He sees the news, reads the newspapers. He knows he needs to do whatever he can to ease the suffering even just a little.
“There’s page after page (in the newspaper) about a benefit for this person or a benefit for that person,” he said. “There’s such a big need out there. There’s a lot of people hurting.”
So Tuesday, when the last concert-goer passed by and dropped a dollar in his pot, he was both sad and excited. He knew the money he’d spent 12 weeks volunteering for would go to help some important people. Not ones spoken of in the headlines, but important because they’re alive.
But he was also sad, his latest season had just come to an end and he needed to go home. He needed to take a shower – there were a lot of bugs in the air that night – and move forward with his life.
His season of helping was at an end.
“Hopefully I’ll be there next year,” he said through a laugh. “I was saying, ‘This is the last night,’ looking for more money, more than a dollar. It was a great night.”
If you can forget the bugs, that is.Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.