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. 

Family-to-Family Feeds Thousands for Thanksgiving

Several members of Scranton Chapter of UNICO National volunteered with “Family-to-Family” recently by placing food items used for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and distributing to those in need. Over 3,000 packages were distributed on the day before Thanksgiving.  

Shown from left are Kristen and Anthony Cianfichi, Karen Clifford, Louis and Chris DiMattio, and Vince Russoniello.  Other participants included Brian, Jason and Joe Castrogiovanni.

Calendar of Events: February 2020

blood driveJackAttack Blood Drive

Jack Callahan was diagnosed with AML Leukemia two weeks after his first birthday. Throughout his 112 day stay at Janet Weis Hospital for treatment, he received four rounds of chemotherapy as well as many blood and platelet transfusions. Jack is now in remission and doing well.

Jack is just one of many brave kids who have battled cancer in our area. He and many other depend on blood donations from volunteer donors as part of their treatment.

A blood drive will be held in honor of Jack’s second birthday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 7 at the Dunmore Community Center.

Walk ins are welcome but there is a limit as to how many people can donate at this event. Anyone interested in encouraged to pre-register online.

UNICO Charity Ball

The Scranton Chapter of UNICO National, the largest Italian American Service Organization in the United States has announced that Diane Alberigi was named UNICAN of the Year for 2019, according to Jim Brogna, chapter president. The annual black tie optional UNICO charity ball will be held on Feb. 29 at Fiorelli’s Manor, Peckville. with cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7. Reservations are required and may be made by calling 570-499-1534.

“Race Under the Roof” Indoor Triathlon

Marywood University’s Pacers Aquatics Club will host “Race under the Roof” Indoor Triathlon on the University’s campus. The triathlon will take place on Saturday, February 22, 2020, from 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. The cost of the event for participants is $25 for the general public and $10 for Marywood students, faculty, and staff. Spectators can enjoy the event at no cost. To register, please visit https://bit.ly/2FT9Uiw.

 A race for all abilities, the triathlon offers a relay, swim/bike, and bike/run option, as well as a t-shirt for all participants, and group awards. The triathlon is a 10-minute swim, 25-minute bike, and 20-minute run, which all take place inside Marywood’s Center for Athletics and Wellness.  Participants’ performances will be based on time, making it ideal for all abilities from beginners of all ages to Ironman Triathlon finishers. 

 Marywood’s Pacers Aquatic Club is in its inaugural year. Team members range in age from 5-18 years, and there are more than 100 members on the team. Coached by Beth Cholish, alumna of Marywood University, the team practices at the University Monday through Friday from 5-7:30 p.m. each day. 

Snowball Roll

Marywood University’s campus ministry office will host its fourth annual “Snowball Roll” fundraiser, to benefit the alternative break service trip program, on Thursday, Feb. 6, . at 1 p.m., at University Avenue, on the University’s campus. This fundraiser is open to the public.  Participants can purchase “Snowballs” for $2 for a chance to win. Nearly 2,000 numbered balls will be rolled down University Avenue. The first 50 balls to cross the finish line will win prizes, which include cash, Apple Air Pods, themed baskets, and gift cards to numerous local restaurants and stores. 

To purchase “Snowballs,” visit alternativebreak@m.marywood.edu, or purchase directly in the office of campus ministry. Participants do not need to be present to win.

For additional information, please contact Ann H. O’Brien, L.S.W., assistant director for service learning and community service, at (570) 961-4593, or email aobrien@marywood.edu.

Marywood Admitted Student Program

marywoodMarywood University will hold Admitted Student Day on Saturday, March 21, 2020, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., at the Nazareth Student Center.. This event is for students who have been admitted to Marywood University. To attend, please register at www.marywood.edu/admitday.

The program will begin with a 9 a.m. registration in the Fireplace Lounge at the Nazareth Student Center. The events will include department visits, information sessions with student leaders, admissions and financial aid representatives. Check out what it’s like to live on campus, with tours of our residence halls. Guests will enjoy complimentary breakfast and lunch, and a Q&A session will be held for parents of admitted students. 

For additional information about Marywood University’s Admitted Student Day, visit www.marywood.edu/admissions/visit-campus/, or call the office of admissions at Marywood University, at (570) 348-6234.


Marywood University will host TEDxScranton on Saturday, March 7, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., in the School of Architecture on the University’s campus. TED (technology, entertainment, and design) is a nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” It will include TED talks, video, and speakers, including Matt Artz, Monica Simon, Jeremy Ciliberto, Suzanne Kapral, Cole Hastings Goldstein, Lisa Reynolds, Mason Crawford, Laurel Radzieski, Steve Gavin, Jourdan Cole, Jack Goddard, Glynis Johns, and Jamie Smith. For information about the TEDxScranton conference at Marywood University, visit facebook.com/events/1302657786576265/. For information about the speakers at the event or to purchase tickets, visit tedxscranton.com/.

West Scranton Reunion

West Scranton High School Alumni Class of 1970 will hold its 50th Class Reunion on Friday, June 5, at Colarusso’s LaPalazzo, Birney Avenue, Moosic, from 6 to 10 p.m.  The menu will include appetizers, buffet, and cake. There will be an open bar. Jack Martin will be DJ. Tickets are $65 per person.

Send a check or money order to:  Chris Mensky, 1348 Dartmouth St., Scranton, PA 18504 and make it payable to: INVADERS 1970 CLASS REUNION.  Final count must be made by May 27.

unicoChoral Competition

The Keystone Chapter of UNICO National is sponsoring its second annual High School Choral Competition with six choral groups competing on March 1 at Lackawanna College. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. and the program begins at 2.  Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students and children five and younger are free. For tickets, contact Toni DiVizio at 570-344-2388 or any Keystone UNICO Member.  

Proceeds from this event will benefit local charities and scholarships. Dunmore High with Frank Jones Directing is participating. There will be monetary prizes awarded to the first place large group chorus and the first place small group chorus.  In addition, there will be a Peoples Choice award winner decided by the audience.