2012: General Operations are transfered from Dolores Castaldo to Catholic Charities, Diocese of St. Petersburg.
1998: How A Dream Became A Reality! Another Dream Come True!
I have a dream were the words Dolores Castaldo used in early January 1998, at a NAMI Pinellas County Support Group Meeting, to describe her vision of a permanent residence for persons who have severe and persistent brain disorders. Her words echoed those of many mothers of adult-children who suffer from chronic mental illness. These moms live in daily fear wondering what will become of their loved one when they are no longer here to provide for them.
Dolores’ dream of a family home is for those persons who may never be able to live on their own, hold a job, or remember to take their medications. Her concern, shared by many other older parents, is that existing programs require transition back into the community. Unfortunately, there are consumers who will never be able to progress to that level and that is the population she is targeting.
Dolores is not one for idle dreaming, however. She immediately transformed her dream into action by pulling together members of other families who share a common situation, that of a loved one with a mental illness in need of long-term care and residence. After a few energetic meetings, a Board of Trustees made up of family members and professionals was established, and the marching orders for Benedict Haven, the name chosen for this endeavor, were set-in-place.
Dolores climbed the mountain of paperwork, unfortunately necessary even for the most worthwhile of projects, with the zest, stamina, and determination of the most respected conqueror of Everest. She waged into the fray and in January 1998, Benedict Haven became a corporation! A few months later, the gods of Olympus, also known as the Internal Revenue Service, approved the application that entitled Benedict Haven, Inc., to the precious category of 501(c)(3), a not-for-profit organization.
“Let the fundraising begin!” was Dolores’ unofficial battle cry. Leading that charge, of course, was Dolores. Few merchants in the north area of St. Petersburg remain who are unfamiliar with her smiling face.
She is one of the many invisible hands in the mental health system who empower themselves and fix a system that is in disrepair. This entrepreneur spirit is what makes America great. She may not make millions, but she is worth a million.
Numerous properties were looked at, both existing structures and vacant land. It was decided that new was better than old. That way Benedict Haven could be designed exactly how it was envisioned. Dolores acquired, through her personal intercession, the necessary funding to purchase a piece of property.
Before 1998 ended, Dolores was in full-drive in planning for, getting donations of merchandise for the Benedict Have 1st Annual Valentine Charity Auction to be held on February 5th.
In such a short time, no one person has done so much the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. In less than one year, Benedict Haven went from dream to reality primarily by the enthusiasm, energy, and drive of a single person . . . Dolores Castaldo.