WHETHER HE’S WORKING ON BEHALF OF SIUH OR ANOTHER WORTHY GROUP, THIS STATEN ISLANDER’S PHILANTHROPIC PASSIONS STAY CLOSE TO HOME
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS © AMESSÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
As part of his philanthropic work on Staten Island, Michael Caridi maintains an active role in a collection of the borough’s charitable organizations. He serves as treasurer on the board of the St. George Theatre, is on the Integration Charter School’s board of trustees, and contributes his time to the planning and presenting of events at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation. But for Caridi, his long standing relationship with Staten Island University Hospital has a particularly significant meaning.
“I first became involved with SIUH doing work with the Maffeo Foundation,” Caridi said, detailing his relationship with the charitable organization named after 9/11 firefighter Joseph Maffeo, which was instrumental in the redesign and renovation of SIUH’s pediatric unit. “I assisted with their Casino Night and a few other events, and admired the work they were doing for children here in the borough.”
So Caridi, who served as vice president of Kozy Shack Pudding Enterprises for more than 30 years, was inspired to found the Puddin’ Kids 1st Vincent Gruppuso Foundation in honor of his father in law, Vincent Gruppuso, whose love of rice pudding sparked the creation of Kozy Shack in 1967.
“My father in law adored children and was grateful for the care he received at SIUH during the last stages of his life,” Caridi said. “He was always working for the future never content for today always looking to better the business or his life in some fashion. So that’s the aim of this foundation and the basis of all of the work we do with SIUH.”
The foundation offers discreet support to underprivileged children and children in need, providing them with much deserved second chances. At SIUH, Caridi has been instrumental in the development of the hospital’s new Women and Newborn Center, which will bear the names of his mother in law and father in law. The Vincent Gruppuso Foundation recently pledged $2.5 million for the center’s construction, the largest philanthropic gift ever made on Staten Island.
“This center is a much needed resource for families here,” Caridi said.
The site will feature an expanded, 20 bassinet neonatal intensive care unit, a new labor and delivery unit, and a postpartum suite all designed to increase comfort and healing. It will be the second location at the hospital to bear the Gruppuso name; the Virginia Gruppuso Breast Imaging Center, located on the first floor of SIUH’s Florina Rusi Marke Comprehensive Breast Center, was dedicated to Caridi’s mother in law last year.
“My mother in law died of breast cancer, so we thought this would be a fitting tribute a center that could help other women living with the same diagnosis,” Caridi said.
The Breast Imaging Center offers cutting edge imaging and biopsy services, using advanced tools like digital mammography, stereotactic or ultrasound guided needle biopsy, breast MRI, MRI guided biopsy, and 3D breast imaging, each of which can assist in detecting and diagnosing cancer early.
In addition to Michael, the foundation is anchored by the Gruppusos’ daughters, Joanne Caridi, Diana Boland, and Lisa Salvo, along with Lisa’s husband, Michael. They continue to plan strategies to improve healthcare and education for the area’s youth.
Caridi, who took over the management of another family business, VG Enterprises Management Group, after the sale of the Kozy Shack empire, was named to SIUH’s board in 2008 and has been active on various board committees of the North well Health system ever since. He’s currently vice chair of the regional oversight council, where his role is to ensure that the hospital continues to meet the needs of the community.
“I act as a liaison for the community with the system,” he explained, “making sure that we as an institution are hitting the right balance, taking care of every patient need.”
The Todt Hill resident is assisted in his charitable endeavors by his wife, Joanne. “It is our goal as a family to give back as much as we can to this community,” Caridi said. “With all of the resources offered at Staten Island University Hospital, there really is no reason for borough residents to leave here for healthcare. There are so many state of the art services offered at SIUH already, and we as a family are committed to helping the organization achieve even more.”
“We continually want to do something to honor our dad, and also do great things for the children of Staten Island,” said Joanne. “We view our gift to the hospital as a gift to the community, and it is our hope that others will be motivated to do even more.”