Hometown hero: Taking care of other people through legacy planning

Charity is as ingrained in Vincent Mastrocola as his hazel eyes and his love of Italian and other ethnic foods.

He attributes it to his upbringing. His grandparents, his mother and her siblings immigrated here from Italy. They joined the blue-collar, melting-pot masses in New York City and passed down their devout Catholic faith to their children and grandchildren.

“I was born and raised in midtown Manhattan when there was no such thing as prejudice – I don’t think I knew that word until I was an adult. It was a community, and everybody helped each other. And going to Catholic school for 10 years, things were hammered into you – almost literally,” he said, with a laugh.

His commitment to others deepened after he transferred from a predominantly white, middle-class school to a high school in Harlem, where most students were working-class kids of color – and where he saw firsthand the everyday struggles they endured.

“Taking care of other people”

So when he sat down recently to figure out his affairs, there was no hesitation in deciding what he would do with his life’s savings. He’s giving it all to charity.

“It’s all about taking care of other people and being thankful for what you have,” said Mastrocola, pictured above, with Catholic Charities’ Director of Development and Marketing Nancy Tompkins. “There’s nothing magical about it. I’m glad I was brought up the way I was.”

As a devout Catholic who’s now an active parishioner at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Hainesport, Mastrocola has been a longtime supporter of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton and made sure to include the agency in his will. He also plans to leave money to other charities that help homeless people and those living in poverty, as well as animals.

Mastrocola lives with his longtime partner Sue and works as director of the Special Audits Unit at the New Jersey Department of Education in Trenton. He’s 74, but don’t even ask him about his retirement plans.

“Boy, that question gets old!” he said, laughing. “People have stopped asking me that. They used to say: ‘Don’t you want to retire and enjoy life?’ I said: ‘You know what? Every day I get up, I enjoy life, and every weekend is a vacation for me.’ People look at me sometimes like I got three heads. But I love going into work and the challenges it brings. The people I work with are interesting and energizing. God willing, I’ll leave when I’m ready.”

A much-needed boost

George Bontcue, Catholic Charities’ associate executive director of fiscal affairs, said bequests are a much-needed boost to the agency’s budget.

“Over the last 2 ½ years, we have received over $780,000 from bequests,” Bontcue said. “These unplanned gifts help support the services we provide.”

Mastrocola also spent much of his life giving back in other ways. He frequently volunteered for various causes, including at a state hospital for autistic adolescents and at St. Vincent de Paul Society. He also worked in a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed adolescent boys as a counselor and teacher’s aide.

“I don’t need people to remember me by anything else other than that I truly contributed by helping,” Mastrocola said. “Look, we’re living in troubled times. But be thankful for what you have, and just be a decent person and respect others.”

To learn about leaving a legacy gift, contact Nancy Tompkins, director of development and marketing, at (609) 394-5181, ext. 1161.

For more information: Dana DiFilippo, communications, (609) 394-5181, ext. 1153.

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