Tempe artist draws a line on human suffering by giving to less fortunate

Tempe artist Russ Cannizzaro is launching a company, Giving Arts, which will donate 50 percent of its net profit to charitable organizations. –Photo courtesy Katie Shaw

By Samuel Voas, wranglernews.com

After painting a mural for the St. Vincent de Paul clinic in Phoenix, Tempe artist Russ Cannizzaro remembers being moved by the “hundreds of cars” lined up outside for dental care.

He knew that the vast majority of those people would not be receiving treatment. The clinic can afford to treat only about 30 patients a month.

“I was just overwhelmed by how much need there was and what St. Vincent de Paul was doing for the underserved in our community,” Cannizzaro said. “I left there in tears. And as I got more involved in the different things they were doing, I just wanted to be part of that family.”

Cannizzaro, founder of the successful art and design company artdecoranddesign.com, and whose work can be found in the aisles of retail giants Target and Walmart, was inspired to make dental care a reality for the less fortunate.

So, for the last three years, Cannizzaro has donated $7,000 to the St. Vincent de Paul dental clinic. In September, he plans to launch a company, Giving Arts, which will donate 50 percent of its net profit to charitable organizations.

Danitza Guerra is among those helped by Cannizzaro’s generosity. She was 9 years old when she first visited St. Vincent de Paul dental clinic. It also was her first visit to a dentist. Danitza was born with a cleft palate and lip.

“She was a pretty girl. Her mother told me that (Danitza) used to sit in front of the mirror every day and cry. She didn’t want to go to school because she was ugly,” said Dr. Ken Snyder, dental director at the clinic.

Danitza’s family did not have the resources to pay for expensive corrective surgery, so she was forced to live with the insecurities that came with her condition.

But thanks to Snyder and the St. Vincent de Paul clinic, Danitza received treatment for free. Had it not been for SVDP, say those who know the story, Danitza probably would be living with her cleft palate and lip to this day.

“We call it ‘the clinic of last resort,’” Snyder said. “If they don’t get treated here, then they are probably not going to be treated at all.”

Stories like Danitza’s are made possible by the generosity of everyday people like Cannizzaro.

St. Vincent de Paul clinic, 420 W. Watkins Road in Phoenix, receives no government funding. It is funded entirely by grants and charitable donations.

Cannizzaro says he is in a position to offer financial support to such charities. He understands that not everyone has the disposable income to contribute to the less fortunate, but he adds that there are other ways of serving charitable organizations.

“Not only is money a valuable resource, but also our time,” he said. “People forget that sometimes. These organizations rely on volunteerism. If you can donate your time, it’s such a valuable gift. I want people to know that.”

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