Many of the Community Foundation’s endowment funds are established to memorialize the life of a loved one. It’s a way of keeping thoughts of these special people in our hearts and in our minds, and sharing their legacy with others. It was from this perspective that Community Foundation donor Giuseppe Zappone established the Mirella Zappone Fund for Social Justice, after his youngest daughter’s sudden death in 2004. Her passion for fighting inequality became a way for her family—her parents, siblings and their spouses, and her four nephews—to coax a semblance of positivity from their grief.
Initially, the fund lent support to students from Mirella’s former high school who were participating in an annual pilgrimage to Mexico. “My sister had worked in Mexico for two years, so that was what the money was earmarked for,” said Frank Zappone, Mirella’s brother. “She had spent some time working in a library for the disadvantaged, so my dad wanted it to go to that sort of cause, for those in Mexico that didn’t have access to education.” Giuseppe himself passed away just over a year after Mirella, and the fund that he started to champion causes that embodied Mirella’s spirit would now reflect his, as well. “We used the fund also when my dad passed away rather than accepting flowers or gifts,” says Zappone, so that if people wanted to they could donate.”
The family dealt with tragedy once more in May of 2018, when another member of the Zappone family—Maria—passed away after a brief battle with cancer. “We decided that since they both had causes they were fighting for and passionate about—my one sister was more politically motivated, my other sister was a teacher and more passionate about student oriented causes—we felt that adding [Maria] to the fund would keep both of their names in our memory.” says Zappone. A teacher at St. Francis Junior High School in Lethbridge until her passing, Maria’s belief in social equality made her an impassioned supporter of her students.
While staying true to its original intentions, the fund has grown and evolved as circumstances have necessitated. When the high school pilgrimage to Mexico was discontinued, the family transferred the scholarship to the Lethbridge College, where it currently supports students interested in social justice who have themselves overcome some sort of obstacle. A generous bequest from Maria, combined with the many memorial donations made by friends, colleagues, and former students, will allow the annual scholarship to double in value. “The money is directed to those who are in need, and those who have a specific cause that they are fighting for,” says Zappone. Social justice is huge, not in just what goes on in our little world, but across the entire world. People who are exposed to that and fight for what they think is right is very important. And to tie that to both my sisters’ support for that idea is great.”
The Mirella and Maria Zappone Fund for Social Justice, though it has its roots in tragic events, demonstrates the resiliency that can be found in even the toughest of circumstances. This fund—and other memorial endowments like it—sustains a legacy that touches lives, just as Mirella and Maria once did. “I feel honoured that this scholarship is going towards someone who really needs it, in remembrance of my two sisters,” says Zappone. “It is great for me to see that their livelihoods live on, what they stood for lives on, and that somebody is getting something good out it.” While both of their lives were too short, Mirella and Maria’s legacies will live forever through their memorial endowment fund at the Community Foundation.