Amid sorrow and loss, Ossining resident Matthew Gullotta has sowed the seeds of goodwill and hope. Gullotta is the president of Gullotta House, a charity he started in 2015 with the goal of helping Westchester residents facing immediate hardships. Gullotta says he founded the nonprofit in honor of his parents Anthony and Carolann Gullotta, Anthony passed away earlier this year in September.
In lieu of flowers, Gullotta has asked that all donations in honor of his father go to the “Gullotta House Needs a Home” campaign, which will fund the purchase of a brick-and-mortar house for the nonprofit in the Hudson Valley (preferably between Sleepy Hollow and Peekskill). According to Gullotta, “We want to create transitional housing for fire and flood victims as well as residents who have been displaced by unforeseen circumstances.”
“With this campaign we are hoping to raise sufficient funds to buy a residence to use as emergency temporary housing for those in need,” he added. “Ideally, we would provide shelter, meals, and laundry services for multiple families for 29 days while they look for alternatives after sustaining a devastating loss. Since launching this campaign in September 2022, we have raised over $62,000. Our goal is to raise $350,000 to reach our objective.”
Donations can also be made in memory of Anthony Gullotta to the Carl Nunziato VA Clinic (1815 Belmont Ave., Youngstown, OH 44504), where Anthony was cared for in hospice during his final days. “We will help up to five families with a loved one in a hospice facility or utilizing home hospice care. Donated funds will help provide items such as a simple meal, gas card, small check, or just a ride to help out,” says Gullotta.
The roots of Gullotta House date back to 1974, when a fire in the Gullotta family’s Tarrytown apartment (above where Lefteris is currently located) wiped out all of the family belongings. Marymount College allowed the Gullottas to live in the nuns’ quarters on the campus for a couple of weeks. While many landlords declined to rent to a family with five kids, a friend of the family finally found them an apartment in Sleepy Hollow (then called North Tarrytown).
In recalling the fire, Carolann Gullotta says, “It was a five-alarm fire, resulting in almost the entire building burning down. We were standing there on the corner watching each room go ablaze and then there was a large explosion. The entire building had to be gutted. Thankfully to God, we got out with our lives. Even just a few minutes more, and we would have all been killed.”
After the fire, Carolann remembers making her way to the Department of Social Services during a snowstorm. “I had the five children in tow and arrived with a missing a boot that had gotten lost in the snow,” she says. Even though her husband had fallen off a scaffold and couldn’t work because he had broken his back, the agency turned down the family’s request for aid. Carolann says the representative told her, “Your family made too much money last year so you don’t qualify.”
According to Matthew Gullotta, “A lot of inspiration for Gullotta House came from the fire and not having a place to go after being displaced. All I remember was that I was across the street at my aunt’s house and saw the flames from the window. I was four or five.”
“My mother and father told me how much the community helped out. The local shoemaker gave us shoes, Baskin-Robbins gave my sister a cake for her birthday, Big Top Toys & Stationary in Ossining (now defunct) gave her gifts, and the Red Cross gave us money,” says Gullotta. His mother adds, “It was the community that stepped up. They took up a collection so I could get a washing machine, they raised money so I could buy food for the kids, and they had another collection so I could buy the kids the school supplies they needed.”
Over the ensuing years, Gullotta and his wife and son were each confronted with a number of difficult medical conditions. For Gullotta, each bout of illness required several surgeries, and each led to financial hardship. “Thank goodness for the Ossining Community Action Program – a part of the Westchester Community Opportunity Program – and Family Ties of Westchester for providing respect, compassion, food, and scholarships to ease my family’s pain,” Gullotta says. Wanting to give back, Gullotta became an Ossining Rotarian and an Ossining Chamber of Commerce board member, both of which further instilled in him the knowledge of the power of volunteer work. In 2015, he founded the Gullotta House charity so that he could pay forward the help he had received from fellow community members.
“The goal of Gullotta House is to aid residents of Westchester County who face financial or other hardships. We provide food vouchers, scholarships to aid with payments for education, outings and community entertainment events, as well as holiday assistance,” says Gullotta. The nonprofit also collaborates with other community organizations and programs by providing additional assistance to their clients and participants.
“Together with the community’s generosity, support, and dedication we are ready to help more Westchester County residents – including children, seniors, veterans, the homeless, families facing hardships and our neighbors who had unexpected setbacks,” says Gullotta. “We are helping our community’s fire and flood victims, those experiencing loss of life, medical expenses, or situations which left them with no money for heating oil, car repairs or food emergencies.”
According to Gullotta, he and members of his volunteer team start every year with two “Hudson River Plunges” held in Ossining and Tarrytown, known respectively as the “Escape from Sing Sing Plunge” and “Headless Horseman Plunge.” “Volunteers and supporters brave the freezing Hudson River to raise money to fund our programs. We have watched our Plunge grow year after year, with more than $47,000 raised last year,” says Gullotta.
Every year for Thanksgiving, Gullotta House gives away hundreds of free turkeys and hosts a meal for hundreds of people who would have otherwise been alone. In addition, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Gullotta House volunteers served and delivered over 150,000 free meals to many hungry families in the communities most impacted.
“At Gullotta House, we try to help Westchester residents who are having hardships. We don’t discriminate against anybody. If we don’t have the money on any given day, we’ll still try to help. I tell people if can’t help you now, give me a couple of days. It could be a $50 or $100 gift card, but something is better than nothing. And what I believe is you need to give people hope, because these people are desperate and in pain, and when you give something to them it makes them realize that someone is listening and wants to help,” says Gullotta.
For more information or to donate, visit gullottahouse.org.