Patrick Rugiero, executive director of the Roman Village Restaurant Group, which includes Roman Village Cucina Italiana in Dearborn and Antonio’s Cucina Italiana locations in Dearborn Heights, Canton Township, and Farmington Hills, is chairman of the Life Directions 44th Annual Spark of Hope Tribute Gala fundraiser. The event will be held on Saturday, May 20 at the General Motors Wintergarden in Detroit’s Renaissance Center, and will feature dinner, live and silent auctions, entertainment, and more. Frank Venegas, Jr., chairman and CEO of Ideal Group, a multi-faceted contracting, steel, and utility services in southwest Detroit, will receive the Life Directions Guiding Light Award, and Joan Duggan will be honored with the group’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The Co-Founders Sustainability Reward will be given to Gerald F. Diez, CEO of Delaco Steel Corp. in Dearborn, and his family for their continued support of Life Directions as well.
DBusiness Daily News interviewed Rugiero about his work in the community and what guests can expect at the Gala.
1.DDN: What does your role as chairman entail?
PR: My experience as chairman of this particular event has been unique in the sense that we have an organization in Life Directions that is on the way back up to some real greatness and some phenomenal work in the community, by working with these young people. So it’s been a real experience.
2.DDN: What is Life Directions?
PR: Life Directions is an organization that helps peers mentor peers, and the wonderful work that’s being done is with young people who are at risk or could possibly be heading down the wrong road, and making that left turn instead of making the right turn. You see it a lot in seventh to ninth graders because that’s when they’re making a decision about continuing on with their educational pursuits, and they can get involved with the wrong people and that takes them down the wrong road. That becomes a problem for not only their own life and future, but also the future of others in the community, so it’s so important that the work that’s being done continues. It’s in the interest of all of us in the community. Whether you live in the community or have a business in it, it’s in everyone’s interest to see crime and violence eliminated.
3.DDN: Why do you think peer-to-peer mentorship is helpful for young students?
PR: It’s helpful because sometimes it’s more difficult for older people, whether it’s a parent or a counselor, and they’re definitely important in the process, to connect with the kids. When you have peers mentoring peers, it’s easier for the students to listen and take their peer’s advice to heart, and so everyone grows from the experience, from the person mentoring, to the person being mentored, everyone is learning something from this experience.
4.DDN: What motivated you to get involved with this event?
PR: I was asked to come onto the board of directors some years ago through current board members like Tom Hathaway, and at the time, I was tied up with other boards and events that I was involved in. So when I got to the point last year when they renewed their request to get involved, I sat down with Father (John) Phelps (CEO of Life Directions) and decided to come onboard. I was happy to do so. After attending last year’s event, I was asked to be the chairman of this year’s event, which is titled the “Sparks of Hope Gala Tribute.” It’s our one formal event per year, so I decided to take the job on and work with the committee to have a first-class event.
5.DDN: Do you feel that business leaders have an obligation to give back to their communities?
PR: I absolutely, 100 percent believe that companies and corporations that are receiving benefits from being in the city, whether they’re selling cars or other products, have an obligation to give back to the community. It’s good corporate responsibility to play their role in it, and we’re really blessed in the city of Detroit that we have a wealth of so many good-quality CEOs that give back to not only Life Directions, but other organizations as well. Our family, through the small company that we have, have been able to participate in some charitable giving, and it’s good to see bigger companies and really big companies give back. I think they should, and I’m glad to see that they do.