Dovere + Pepe Piperno = Virtua Health Humanitarian of the Year

“When I was young, I thought dovere meant something you had to do,” said Pepe Piperno, founder of the Domenica Foundation. “When I got older, I realized dovere means respect and responsibility.”

In accepting Virtua Health’s 2021 Humanitarian of the Year award, Pepe credited his mother, for whom our family foundation is named, for teaching him dovere and compassion. He also credited his father for bringing his family to the US, and specifically to Camden, NJ, where Pepe achieved the business success that enables him to help less fortunate neighbors.

You can see the online award ceremony on our YouTube channel.

Our support for Virtua’s Eat Well mobile grocery store was a big part of the decision to honor Pepe. Taking healthy groceries to urban “food deserts” is a natural extension of our efforts to alleviate hunger in South Jersey.

In addition to making a substantial contribution to the launch fund, Pepe offered his energy and talent to bring the mobile grocery store from dream to reality. As John J. Parker, Sr., Chair of the Virtua Health Foundation, said during the online award presentation, “Pepe’s leadership and passion accelerated our plans for the mobile grocery store and inspired others to get on board.”

Christine Healey of the Healey Family Foundation, speaking of Pepe’s philanthropy in many projects in the Camden area, made a similar point: “He’s not just someone who writes a check. He also brings his intelligence, his entrepreneurialism, to say ‘How can we make this better?’”

Similarly, Father Joe Capella, rector of Camden Catholic High School–where the Domenica Foundation has supported scholarship students for decades–said of Pepe, “His philanthropy is not an add-on. It’s an extension of his humanity.”

After thanking his family and friends, Pepe went on to accept the award on behalf of “people who stand in line every night to have a meal and then get in another line to find a place in a shelter to sleep.”

“My mother used to say, ‘If it makes sense, it’s right.’ I pray for our leaders, on both sides of the aisle, to come to the conclusion that people who work so hard, people for whom a home is a dream, not a reality, people who live in poverty–that it’s not right, and something has to be done.”

See all the tributes and Pepe’s full acceptance speech in this 13-minute video. If you agree that “something has to be done,” contact Elena Piperno, executive director, to see how we can join forces. Or you can donate to help us improve the quality of life for underserved communities in South Jersey.