A tale of two Tonies.

By: Andy Choi
Manager - Corporate Communications

Meet Tony and Toni, two V Teamers spreading love through literature and lasagna.

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On today’s Up To Speed, we meet two amazing V Teamers who use their unique talents to help those around them:

Tony Samuel: the write stuff

When not managing a team of 15 customer service reps, Tony loves spending time with his family. His daughter Nadia has a rare biological condition — Phelan-McDermid syndrome — which impacts only 1,600 people in the world. The syndrome involves a partial deletion of the 22nd chromosome, which is responsible for speech and cognitive abilities.

“There is no cure and there is no treatment,” explained Tony. “It results in global development delays.”

Tony and his wife enjoy playing catch and going on walks with Nadia. Tony also travels from his home in Wilmington, NC, to Washington, DC, every year during “Rare Disease Week” to advocate for Nadia’s condition. “We do everything we can to ensure that Nadia gets the best, because she deserves the best,” said Tony.

That includes finding the best reading material. “When Nadia was born, there was a scarcity of books with African American characters. It was important to me that Nadia could see herself positively in books.”

Rather than wait for the perfect book to arrive, Tony decided to write his own. He crafted a story that would allow Nadia to go on adventures she couldn’t go on in real life. “She’s basically the star of her own book. That’s how Princess Nadia was born.”

Nadia loved the story, and that could have been the end of Tony’s writing career. But instead of putting down his pen, Tony pushed further. “I started my own book company – Talented Books (www.talentedbooks.com),” said Tony. “The second book I wrote is called ‘Princess Nadia and the Search for the Missing Treasure.’ The third book is called ‘Nighty Owl’ – that one is all about girl power.”

“Every time I write something it has to do with a deeper meaning,” said Tony. “We’re all searching and trying to find something that we don’t even realize we have. We take things for granted all the time. That’s what really drives me.”

If interested in learning more about Tony’s books, you can find them on Amazon.

Toni Fucito: cooking with kindness

Toni has had tremendous success over her 18 years at Verizon, first in sales in the Northeast and then for the past three years as a customer service advocate in North Carolina. But she would likely say that her greatest talents lie in the kitchen. Toni has always loved cooking for others. With her kids living up north, she would cook for her colleagues at her call center. Then when the pandemic hit, she put ads online and cooked for people in need in her community.

In September, a friend urged Toni to watch a segment on The Today Show. It was the story of a mother, Rhiannon Menn, who was also looking for a way to help others during the pandemic. She baked lasagna for one family. From that one act of kindness, a movement grew and an organization was born: Lasagna Love.

Toni was moved by the story and signed up that day. When not helping customers for Verizon, she began baking lasagnas for people in her community. One day in late December, she took a customer call from a woman.

”We started chatting about the pandemic and I mentioned Lasagna Love. She kept asking more questions and asking for more information. I thought she wanted to sign her own mother up.” Toni mentioned that she had delivered lasagnas to three families on Christmas Eve. “You drive up and you see these families are having trouble putting food on the table,” said Toni. “I just have to help.”

Toni solved the woman’s issue and assumed that was the end of it.

That evening, her daughter and niece both reached out to Toni separately, telling her “You’re famous!”

It turns out that the woman Toni had been speaking to was Lennon Stella, previously one of the stars of the TV show “Nashville,” and now a successful singer/songwriter. She had been so moved by Toni’s story that she had reached out to her thousands of Instagram followers, asking if anyone knew “Toni, the Lasagna Love woman from Verizon.”

Toni was floored. She had never heard of Lennon. Eventually, Lennon found Toni and they talked. “She said that most people are nice to her because she’s famous,” remembered Toni. “Then she said, ‘But you were nice to me even though you didn’t know who I was. You were just kind for the sake of being kind.’”

Lennon and her mother both joined Lasagna Love and baked for others. She also made a donation.

For Toni, it was just another day as a V Teamer. “I’ve been here at Verizon for 18 years and that’s how we do it. We’re always looking to pay it forward.”

Toni continues to help Verizon customers and bake lasagnas for those in need.

Living the Credo

Thanks to Toni and Tony for showing all of us how we each have gifts and resources that we can use to move the world forward with simple acts of kindness.

If you have any questions, email them to live@verizon.com.

Get the latest information on our Coronavirus Resource Page (Inside Verizon, The Street).

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