by Anna Foschi Ciampolini
Once upon a time, Canada boasted an exemplary universal health care system, able to respond to the needs of long-term, complex care individuals. Nowadays, in British Columbia, almost one million people don’t have a primary care physician and can’t get one. For the lucky ones who have a family doctor, a one-month wait for a consultation is a common occurrence. Access to home care for the elderly or disabled people also requires a long wait because government-funded services have a backlog and are short-staffed. In Metro Vancouver, home to roughly 75,000 Italian-Canadians, many families worry about finding affordable private home care for their aging relatives, especially for those who cannot speak English. A few years ago, Lina Fronzo faced a serious situation when she sought home assistance for her mother. The BCIT-Medical Assistant, Administrative and Accounting Programs graduate shares that her elderly mom “had a negative experience with the medical system care: always different faces, language barrier and no consistency of care.“ Motivated by her knowledge of community needs and using her experience in the field, in 2015, Fronzo started “Annie’s Place,” her own company of home care services. It mainly served the Italian-Canadian community in Burnaby, then gradually expanded to other Metro Vancouver municipalities and Victoria, the Province’s capital. By 2019, when Fronzo organized the official ribbon-cutting ceremony at their new headquarters, her company had already grown to include multilingual staff and assist the general population. Annie’s Place is also aligned with an allied health network of therapists and pharmacies. The Covid pandemic created an even higher demand: “When the company finally had the right people in place in 2020, that were all committed to growth and success, we grew 400 percent.” Fronzo states.
The Fronzo family came to Canada in the 1960s from Bagnoli, a town in Abruzzo, Italy. Lina was born in Vancouver in 1965. She gained professional experience in administration and accounting before becoming a dynamic entrepreneur. She runs her professional health, home, and community services collective with a socially responsible perspective. Fronzo summarizes her philosophy in a few words: “As we grow even further, our goals are to never lose the human touch with clients and relationships. This kind of business needs this piece of the puzzle. We try to keep our rates affordable as we are a social business and give back to the communities we serve.”
Fronzo is married and has a 27-year-old son but manages the challenges of her busy day without sacrificing her family life. She believes that family is still a bedrock for Italian-Canadians and that the role of women has always been crucial in the community. Italian-Canadian women were always actively involved in supporting their families. The early twentieth century B.C. settlers and those who came during the post-war year worked in the house hosting bordanti or started small enterprises in various fields. They engaged in community work, fought for community causes, and spearheaded many important initiatives. Their Canadian-born, university-educated offspring found success in many professional and business fields. Through generations, the ingenuity and tenacity of Italian-Canadian women are still the foundation of family and community.