Van Christo, 66, a prominent member of Boston's ad industry for 35 years, closed Van Christo Inc. in December and established the Frosina Foundation to provide assistance and counseling to U.S. immigrants of Albanian descent.
Van Christo Inc., founded in 1950, provided advertising and public relations services for high tech clients in the U.S., Canada and Europe. At its zenith 15 years ago, billings exceeded $4 million.
But Mr. Christo says he found himself becoming more removed from the agency's creative product until his interest in the plight of Albanians prompted him to make a radical career change.
"I decided if I wanted to do it, it had to be now," he says.
Mr. Christo was born in Albania but came to Boston as a 1-year-old with his parents. Until it established a democratic government in 1992, Albania spent 50 years under a repressive Communist regime.
With the recent easing of travel restrictions, there has been a sudden influx of Albanian nationals and about 400,000 to 500,000 immigrants of Albanian descent now live in the U.S., he says. He explains there are too few services to help these new immigrants, and he is trying to fill this void with the Frosina Foundation.
The foundation, named for Mr. Christo's mother, is initially providing Albanian immigrants with translating services; aiding them in locating relatives; and assisting them with immigration, Social Security, employment, and medical and dental care. Educational and business services also are planned.
The creativity that led Mr. Christo into advertising has also been evident in his personal life and hobbies. Through "Van Christo Radio Theater," a weekly program he created that aired in Boston for 15 years, Mr. Christo also accrued impressive broadcasting credentials.
In addition, he served as executive producer and host of an award-winning children's program, "The Treehouse," which aired for five years on WBUR, Boston's National Public Radio station.
Mr. Christo spent four years as director of an Albanian men's chorale, which raised funds to build St. Mary's Albanian Orthodox Church in Worcester, Mass. In 1982, he began an intensive three-year search in Italy and France that ultimately led to the rediscovery of two operas about a 15th century Albanian folk hero.
Integrally involved in the political and social affairs of Albanian-Americans, Mr. Christo has served as executive editor of the monthly newspaper Liria ("Liberty") since 1991.
In 1992 and 1993, Mr. Christo and his wife Jane, general manager of WBUR, were sent to Albania by the U.S. Information Agency to serve as consultant/advisers to Radio Tirana, a state station.
The Frosina Foundation is located at 100 Boylston St., Boston 02116. The phone is (617) 482-2002.