UNICO Still Adhering to “Service Above Self” Despite Pandemic

The Scranton Chapter of UNICO National, the largest in the Italian-American service organization, has adapted to the realities of the current COVID-19 pandemic while still adhering to the group’s credo: Service Above Self.

“Our members have truly been dedicated and done a wonderful job of ensuring that our service to the community has continued,” said chapter president Gail Cicerini. “The needs are greater than ever, and I am grateful to everyone for all they are doing to help in so many different ways.”

Gail noted that the chapter is ensuring that safety and health protocols are followed while being creative with respect to its activities and service projects.

The Chapter’s monthly dinner gatherings are suspended, but the Board of Directors meets every month via Zoom. Regular emails, and postings on the website and social media by Jim Sagona and  Lori Nozzi aim to keep everyone connected.  Mary Marrara, chair of the Membership Committee, continues to reach out and contact Chapter members.

Among the many areas of life affected when the pandemic began to spread more widely last spring was education. Despite the interruption to in-class learning, the Scranton Chapter maintained its tradition of presenting the Brian Piccolo Award to graduating high school seniors of Italian-American heritage who exhibit achievements in athletics and the qualities of hard work, integrity, leadership and courage exemplified by the award’s namesake, who played professional football before succumbing to cancer. The Piccolo Award Committee chaired by  Ann Genett, Lise Bieri and Cindy Farino reviewed the nominations and selected six students to receive the 2020 award.

The Chapter honors the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces. This year, in lieu of the annual bingo party held for veterans at the Gino Merli Center and Saint Francis Commons, the Veterans Committee presented a DVD salute of greetings and gratitude along with gift certificates for a sheet cake. This effort was coordinated by Charlie Spano, Jack Trapani and Mary Marrara.

The Ladies Auxiliary, with  Patti Montalbano as president, has been typically busy and productive. Through its various activities, including the Mystery Purse raffle, donations were made to Trinity Child Care Center at Saint Joseph’s Center, Family to Family Thanksgiving food basket program, Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen, Meals on Wheels, NEPA Teen Shelter, Wright Center Food Pantry, Women’s Resource Center, Children’s Advocacy Center, and the Catherine McAuley Center.

Since the weather began to chill, the Chapter has been collecting slightly used coats for men, women and children as well as donations and gift cards to help Friends of the Poor, the agency sponsored by the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that offers food, clothing and shelter to those in need.  Diana Giovannini is chairing this effort, with help from  Renee Rinaldi, Camille and Louise Frye, and  Linda Stafursky, who has graciously lent space in her home as a drop-off spot for many of the coats.

An issue that might not be visible to many – the problem of students who experience periods of homelessness – has gotten the attention of the Chapter. Coordinated by  Ann Genett, clothing and other items are being provided to a number of students.

Although the celebration of Christmas might have been somewhat different for many, the Scranton Chapter was able to make the holidays a bit more festive through a new endeavor.

Harkening to the tradition of the 12 Days of Christmas, the Chapter took it up a notch with a “13 Days of Christmas Raffle Extravaganza.” Each ticket gave the purchaser a chance for prizes with a total worth of more than $3,900. Raffle chairman Jim Sagona conducted drawings each evening from December 11-23, live on the UNICO Scranton Facebook Page. More than $12,500 was raised to support the Chapter’s charitable causes.

Another holiday event, the Minicozzi Run/Christmas Party at the Boys & Girls Club in Scranton, was held according to safety protocols. This event normally is funded by proceeds from the Annual Cpt. James R. Minicozzi Memorial Race conducted at La Festa Italiana. Although the 2020 race was canceled due to the pandemic, the Minicozzi Race Committee led by  Leslie Minicozzi Galacci and the UNICO Scranton Chapter made sure the kids enjoyed a nice luncheon party.

With the holidays behind and winter upon us, is it too soon to think about spring? Not if you’re a golfer! If you are, mark your calendar for May 26 and plan to participate in the Scranton Chapter Golf Tournament on the links of Mount Airy Casino and Resort in the Poconos.  Vince Martino is chairing the committee for this event, which will follow safety protocols. Please call 570-499-8469 or email vcmartino@gmail.com for further information about the Tournament. 

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