A father’s love and a family’s legacy of kindness continues with a $100,000 gift

When people enter Family Pathways’ Cambridge Food Pantry they can’t help but notice a plaque with a picture of a young woman and her beloved horse. On one occasion, the child of a food pantry client was heard asking her mother, “Mommy, who is that pretty lady with the horse?”

A plaque on the wall at the Family Pathways Food Pantry in Cambridge hangs in memory of Elizabeth Ann Bilotta.

That pretty lady is Elizabeth Ann Bilotta who tragically passed away on Oct. 3, 2008 at the young age of 31. The plaque hangs in recognition of a very generous donation her father, Robert P. Bilotta Sr., made to the food pantry in 2010 in her memory.

Elizabeth resided in Cambridge and was employed with Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming. She had a deep love for animals, especially horses. King, her golden palomino, was too old to show so as an accomplished equestrian Liz showed horses for others and received over 100 ribbons. Animals just seemed to instinctively respond to her, sensing her caring.

But Liz was also known for caring about the people in her community. So for her father, giving a $24,000 gift to the food pantry in her memory seemed like the perfect tribute. He not only wanted to honor Liz’s legacy of kindness towards her neighbors by donating to help struggling families, but he also wanted to inspire others to make memorial gifts and thereby turn their tragedy to a triumph for good.

Bilotta understands the tragedy of losing a child all too well, having also lost his son some years prior to losing Liz. Robert Patrick Jr. passed away on June 11, 1994 at the young age of 23. Rob, who had a passion for flying and weather, attended the University of North Dakota and majored in aviation and meteorology.

According to his father, he was born to fly, and graduated with honors in 1992. Upon receiving his degree he was certified as a private and commercial pilot as well as an instructor and began flying for Weather Modification. Rob’s job was to fly into severe storms and seed the clouds to prevent hail from damaging the farmers’ crops.

These two young people had so much to offer, so despite his loss, this father decided to celebrate his love for his children by generously helping others. This year, Bilotta is continuing his family legacy of kindness by making a $100,000 gift to Family Pathways’ food pantries, youth service and senior services.

Fifty thousand is designated as a legacy gift to establish Family Pathways’ first named endowment fund in tribute to Elizabeth Ann Bilotta and Robert Patrick Bilotta Jr. The additional $50,000 will go to the programs of Family Pathways as “matching fund challenges” in 2012.

Rich Smith the Executive Director of the organization said, “This is the single largest gift Family Pathways has received from an individual. While we are saddened by the losses Robert has experienced, we are so impressed with how he has chosen to deal with his tragedies. With the rising number of families seeking assistance from our programs, these funds will go a long way to help us keep pace with our communities’ needs. We are truly honored by the trust he has placed in us by choosing our organization as the beneficiary of his extreme generosity.”

Bilotta said, “This is a good organization that helps so many local people. I expect that my $100,000 gift will create a buzz, and that is good. It is my hope that buzz will bring more awareness regarding the work Family Pathways does, and that it will inspire others to list Family Pathways in their wills and to make tribute gifts so more people will be helped. I feel good that I am giving “seed” money to initiate their endowment fund because I know the principal will be kept in perpetuity.”

For more information on Family Pathways call 763-552-7184 or visit www.familypathways.org.