Drita D’Avanzo gets emotional when she talks about Hurricane Sandy, which hit Staten Island over two weeks ago with such force that it left countless neighbors homeless, without power, and without any of their personal possessions. She simultaneously gets teary and angry thinking about what they’ve lost, and how important it is to get them the help and money they need to recover, which is why she organized a fundraiser that’s happening this Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET in New York City to benefit victims of the storm. (For information and to find out what you need to do to attend, click here.)
I spoke to Drita today about how close she came to losing her own home and what she’s been doing to help those less fortunate than herself. Those rumors about how she and a Mob Wives camera crew “crashed” a volunteer effort to donate supplies to victims is patently false, she says. “I was NOT happy,” to read that, she tells us. “I see this write-up: ‘Drita goes to a spot where everybody ran from her and they were mad she had cameras,’ that was absolutely not the case.” And as devastating as the storm was, it actually had one beneficial outcome — she and her cast-mates have put all their differences aside, she says, because there are bigger things than their drama and better ways to use their time than squabbling. See what Drita’s got to say about everything in our conversation below.
Tell me how your fundraiser came together so quickly.
Johnny Donovan is a good friend of mine and he helped me so much. He does a lot of club promoting and he made this come together. I love club WIP and I really wanted to have the party there, and they said okay, so I have a lot lot lot of friends and family coming and it’s open to everyone, it’s $20 a head and all the money goes to victims.
Do you have any particular charities that the money is going to?
Tunnel to Towers is great, and I know for a fact that they’re awesome. One of the reasons I love Tunnel To Towers so much is there was a woman who died in the storm, and her sister didn’t have the money to bury her. So her sister is laying there dead, can’t be buried. Tunnel To Towers buried her. Things like that make me happy. Places like the Red Cross only give a percent of what they raise to victims and I didn’t want to raise money and give it to a charity that wasn’t going to give it all to victims. First of all, that would take away from me enjoying the fact that I can help these people. There are certain families, my brother has been working around the clock at one of the main recovery stations in Staten Island and he knows these people, he’s seen these families, so depending on how much money I raise through my party and my online fundraiser, I’m going to get a list of families and literally drop off gift cards to all of them, hopefully thousands of dollars to each of them if I raise enough money. If you’re a charity and you raise two million dollars, why the f— doesn’t every family get $10,000? That makes no sense, why are they not doing that? I want people to be able to buy what they lost. It’s awful what people lost.
Your house right there in the middle of the destruction zone, what kind of devastation did you see?
You know, I thought my house was finished. I stayed at my mother’s during the storm and all night I thought my house would be gone. I live down the block from the ocean, zone A was right next to me, my friend lost her home, her cars, everything. It’s crazy. There are children, freezing, hungry. You’d think we were in a war zone. And there are certain spots that are neglected that nobody even goes there or drops anything off there. These people are just shocked, a lot of them are really stunned, a lot of them don’t know what they’re looking for, they’re just too shocked that they lost everything. My daughter knows a girl whose best friend died, this little girl. How do you deal with that?
What have you said to your daughters about this situation?
Well, I had tons of brand new things i was donating, linens, towels, clothes, all with the tags on them, I bought food and toiletries, so while I was doing this, I said to Gizelle and Aleeya, who have 5,000 toys, I sat them down and said “You know how when we watch TV and you see bad things that have happened around the world? This has happened now in our neighborhood. People lost their lives, their homes.” And my kids were crying. They’re just like mommy, they’re sensitive disasters! They went into their own closets and I told them to give me what they didn’t want, toys, warm things since it’s freezing out, and when they came down, I was so proud of them, they gave SO much. So we went down to donate, and when they saw what happened out there, they were devastated.
Has the storm affected the show at all? I know you guys already had started filming.
It definitely affected the show, but what’s funny is it affected it in a good way. Whatever beef or nonsense was going on, it just disappeared. Everybody was like, texting each other, seeing if we were all okay, we were all helping and donating and cleaning and doing everything, it was nice to see that. Everybody put all their problems aside.
I was doing a lot of volunteering off-camera when I wasn’t filming, and the one day I had to film — did you read this write up? — they said people were pissed that I showed up to help with cameras, they said it was a PR move, and I was NOT happy. First of all, 90% of what I did wasn’t on camera. I never called anyone, there was not one photo of me anywhere. Photos are a PR move. When the cameras followed me, that was for my job, I wasn’t disrespecting anyone. It boggles my mind. When I went down to the spot where I went that day, I went there because people told me it had been very neglected, that area. So I go there and nobody’s there! I ‘m like, wow, it was neglected. I must have brought nine construction bags filled with food and supplies, all the camera men were helping me, and it was sad, this one lady was like “Drita, nobody’s been here.” So then I see this write-up: “Drita goes to a spot where everybody ran from her and they were mad she had cameras,” that was absolutely not the case. There was no one there when I got there, there were two guys there that I was talking to, that was it. There was one guy there screaming “Where were you four days ago?? You should have been here four days ago!” but I was stuck with no gas for five days. He’s cursing at me! I’m thinking in my head, I’m gonna be the one that ends up in a fistfight at the donation spot! I looked at my camera guy and asked “Is it me, or am I a magnet to problems?” I was bugging. But everyone was actually so appreciative, you meet such nice people at these places and it makes you so sad.
To find out more about Drita and the rest of the mob wives’ efforts in Staten Island, you can also check out this special VH1 News clip featuring the whole cast.
[Photo: Getty Images]