It is with a heavy heart that I write to pay tribute to the memory of John Deluca, a true visionary and leader who left an indelible mark on the North End neighborhood and the city as a whole. John was the Executive Director of the DaVinci Center, a multi-purpose center based on the settlement house and social welfare agency concept, operating in a non-partisan environment. The DaVinci Center is one of the 11 multi-purpose centers in Providence, RI.
John’s journey with the DaVinci Center began in 1972 when he was a school counselor and Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) advisor at St. Ann’s Church, the Catholic church that anchored the neighborhood. Together with four others, who were equally concerned about the social fabric of the Charles Street/Wanskuck area of Providence, John formed a corporation to address the needs of the community. Businesses were closing, families were struggling, and the number of teenage dropouts was alarmingly high.
Through his determination, vision, social skills, expertise, and connections, John transformed the DaVinci Center from a rent-free storefront drop-in center to a comprehensive service provider for the community. He worked with his staff and Board of Directors to design the current building, where the center has been located since 1978. John became Executive Director of the DaVinci Center in 1976, a position he held until his passing.
Just two weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting with John at the DaVinci Center, or “The Center” as he would call it. We spoke at length about the ways in which I could support the DaVinci Center as a City Councilor, its impact over the years, and how it has always risen to meet the needs of the North End. John spoke with great passion about the challenges our neighborhood faces and was excited for the next chapter of impact for the DaVinci Center and our community.
John’s legacy will endure through the DaVinci Center, which he named after Leonardo da Vinci, a Renaissance Man and a positive role model in Italian history and culture. Despite having a small full-time staff, along with occasional interns from Rhode Island College and Community College of Rhode Island, the DaVinci Center continues to provide substantial services to the community, which has become more racially and ethnically diverse over time. John Deluca’s passing is a great loss to our community, but his legacy will live on through the DaVinci Center and the countless lives it has touched. We extend our deepest sympathies to John’s family and friends during this difficult time.