Qualcomm co-founder Franklin Antonio gives $2M to Father Joe's Villages

Donation for group's lunch program

SAN DIEGO - Father Joe's Villages announced Friday that a co-founder of San Diego-based Qualcomm donated a $2 million gift that will fund its lunch program for the next five years.

The program will be named in honor of Franklin Antonio, the mobile chip-maker's executive vice president and chief scientist.

Father Joe's Villages, founded by semi-retired Father Joe Carroll, serves about 700-900 lunches a day to the area's homeless and hungry. The organization estimates the money will fund 300,000 meals annually.

"We are extremely grateful to Mr. Antonio for this tremendous donation, which will provide so many individuals with their only meal for the day," said Diane Stumph, the social service agency's president. "Mr. Antonio's donation is great news for the souls who stand in line each day, and for all of San Diego because it shows that those with means care about their community and support their neighbors in need."

The lunch program was one of the first services provided by Father Joe's beginning in the early 1950s at St. Mary of the Wayside Chapel in East Village.

"Father Joe's is a San Diego treasure," Antonio said. "I'm incredibly impressed by what they accomplish, and I'm honored to be able to help."

What will now be known as the Franklin Antonio Public Lunch Program provides free meals to the homeless and working poor. More than a third of the patrons are disabled and about 16 percent are veterans, according to Father Joe's Villages.

Father Joe's officials say San Diego has the fourth-largest population of homeless people in the U.S. and the third-largest population of homeless veterans.

Father Joe reflects on the commercial that started it all

About 30 years ago, Father Joe uttered these words in a commercial that helped build his organization: "I'm here to hustle you."

"Oh yeah, it's what made me because nobody knew who I was; I was the new kick on the block," Father Joe said. "Channel 10 had this commercial made where I said I'm a hustler."

But it almost didn't happen.

"First, I said no you can't have that, I'm a priest, you can't do it," he said.

But the people at Channel 10 convinced him and it aired in 1984 right after Steve Garvey hit a home run sending the Padres to the World Series.

"The city went crazy and the first commercial on Channel 10 was 'Hi, I'm a hustler.' And the next day, everybody said, 'You're that funny priest from TV,'" he recalled.

Thirty years later, that commercial has resurfaced and he's still hustling.

"I'm back, and I'm coming after you," he said.

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