Driving down 111 Avenue between Kingsway and 81 Street, you might see Lucien Facciotti walking energetically, wearing a long black trench coat, dark coke-bottle glasses, and carrying a staff. You’ll especially notice his hat. He sports a large, green replica of the Mad Hatter hat from Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice in Wonderland. He salutes passing drivers with the American Sign Language (ASL) sign, “I love you”. Facciotti isn’t kidding; he has a heart of gold.
“So, where are you going?” I ask him, as we settle down in the Italian Centre Shop on 95 Street. Settling takes a while. He removes his hat and and coat, and retrieves a large bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling water from the grocery section. The barista gives him a champagne flute with ice. Staff greet him amicably. He bestows his grin—a little mischievous but good-humoured—and says, “I’m already there. People want more. That’s all there is.” Ah, but there is more.
If you are fortunate to meet Facciotti, he will likely give you a single Werther’s Original candy. He said, “There is magic happening on 111 Ave. I get to be the person who creates this energy.” The energy is love.
Facciotti has faced challenges. A “sheltered” childhood in an idyllic St. Albert setting with horses, including a Shetland pony, ended suddenly, just shy of his 14th birthday when his father died unexpectedly. Facciotti’s family disintegrated. His mother became ill with multiple sclerosis. “Everything disappeared.” He drank excessively for 38 years. He became homeless and was diagnosed with mental illness, for which he continues to receive treatment. Although he held many jobs in the past—including as an usher at the Roxy Theatre—he is now unable to work.
Sober since February 15, 2013, Facciotti is positive. He marvels that he has everything he needs: a home, food, and medical care. He said, “I don’t need physical stuff. I’m spiritual. I only need love. I never ask for stuff, but people give me money and stuff.”
In September 2017, Facciotti donned his iconic hat and began what he calls his “candy mission.” He uses the money people gift him to buy Werther’s Original candy, which he gives to anyone he meets. “Anything else gets sticky in my pocket,” he grinned. “I have to do it. It gives me a buzz when I make people happy.” Facciotti especially enjoys giving candy to the homeless. “They look like they could use a surprise.”
Facciotti’s mission has momentum. He said, “Save-On sponsored it for a few months, then pulled their help, stating they couldn’t afford the $25 every two months, in January 2018.”
After that, he found a good deal on Amazon.com where he could buy 40 oz. bags for $30.
“I have had ‘my’ people on the avenue in August contribute $41.15 and I invested of that… $32.20. Then in September, I put the rest in and now have about 10 pounds of Werther’s candies in the apartment, still.” Facciotti says that some neighbourhood businesses are interested in donating Werther’s candy to his candy mission.
Facciotti feels successful in making people happy. He says, “Just my presence makes people happy. The people you meet walking around are amazing. I have changed the way I see the world and the world changed around me.”
Facciotti envisions the community helping him to place one piece of candy into each of the lunch bags the Hope Mission distributes daily through their various outreach programs. According to Ryan Harding, manager of outreach for Hope Mission in Edmonton, that number varies throughout the year, but it is approximately 1,500 lunches a day.
In the meantime, Facciotti is philosophical. “When you get to walk up and down an avenue and have people wave at you, you must be doing something right.”
Featured Image: You may have seen Lucien Facciotti along 111 Avenue. | Rebecca Lippiatt