Honoring true Fresno philanthropy

  • By: Sally Caglia – Electric Motor Shop & Warnors Center for the Performing Arts

Definition of Philanthropy: The practice of performing charitable or actions of benevolence, love of mankind in general. The US immigration flood of the 1920’s included an 8 year old boy from a very humble village in Italy. Being the first to learn English in his family, he was relied upon to assist his parents and eventually, lead his 6 brothers and 5 sisters in adapting to their new home on the West side of Fresno.

His early education and impressions of life came from the Sisters of the Holy Cross and the Redemptorist Priests at St. Alphonsus of Liguiori Catholic Church and School. There, he saw examples of love, ethics, compassion, kindness and responsibility which he took to heart. The boy lived by these paradigms for the rest of his life.

Frank S. Caglia grew into one of Fresno’s greatest businessmen. If you asked him, he would never say he considered himself a philanthropist. He was also proud to call himself an American – not an Italian-American – but an American. And he was so grateful for all the blessings his diligence and hard work afforded him. His heart was full of benevolence and appreciation to the people and the City that gave these blessings to him.

First and foremost, after his family, the Holy Cross Sisters held a special place in his heart. When a new Medical Center for St. Agnes was needed, the down payment to begin construction was given by Frank. In exchange, the old hospital was his. However, acknowledging many worthy requests, most if not all the medical equipment, cabinets, beds, doors and the chapel, including the statuary, stained glass windows and pews were donated. Containers full of surgery and emergency room equipment and hospital beds were donated to clinics in Africa and Mexico.

Another significant donation was the old Kearney Bowl Racetrack stadium lighting (formerly, the Italian Entertainment Park). Parents and students alike are still enjoying football games under those same stadium lights at San Joaquin Memorial High School.

Not only was Frank a kind and giving man, he also cherished Fresno’s historic landmarks. Rather than see local icons, like the Warnors Theater, the Mars Drive-in sign, the Cupola from the old Courthouse (jointly preserved with the Kevoian Family) and the old Van Ness Ave. Arch destroyed, he saved them for posterity. Thankfully, the Cupola and Mars Drive-In sign will one day be on permanent display for the entire Valley to enjoy.

There were so many sports teams, religious organizations, civic service clubs and any number of youth organizations and individual requests that Frank supported anonymously, they are too numerous to list. He was truly a kind, compassionate and generous philanthropist who loved his fellow man and his home, Fresno.

We his children can only hope to continue and emulate his legacy.

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