A veteran of the U.S. Army who served overseas in Korea after the war, Belmonte was a career firefighter, starting with the Westchester Fire Department in 1978 and working his way up from lieutenant in 1982 and captain in 1989 to chief in 2006, a position he held until his retirement in 2011.
Belmonte joined CIAO in 2000, “to enjoy the camaraderie and celebrate the shared heritage.” He has held leadership positions since 2002, serving on the advisory board and board of directors and holding the positions of first, second and third vice president before ascending to the presidency.
“Since the night of my inauguration as president, I have encouraged our membership to work hard to attract new members. Then, the other day a couple of questions popped into my head; ‘Why did I become a member?’ and ‘What have I gotten out of the years I have spent in the club?'”
“I guess the first thing that comes to mind is my ethnicity. I am a Calabrese and was brought up in a family and neighborhood that predominantly reflected that. As a youngster growing up, I took it for granted. As I grew older I began to move outward from that inner circle as I became exposed to backgrounds that were different than mine.
“It began to dawn on me that I was proud of my roots. I loved the traditions, customs and beliefs, as well as the love of family and the work ethic I had been exposed to. Those things defined me as a person and I wanted to do something not only to preserve them but also to pass them along.
“The second thought that comes to mind is how personally rewarding my involvement has been. It has afforded me the opportunity to meet and interact with many remarkable people. Out of that has come many wonderful friendships, but also many rewarding and fun activities. What some would call work becomes fun when it involves a shared experience that benefits a good cause. And these friendships have broadened me as an individual. There are a wide range of business and professions that speak to the diversity of the group, as well as their individual talents and industry.
“Being a member of CIAO is everything I hoped it would be. It has helped me celebrate my heritage and pass it along to those who follow me. It has allowed me to meet and befriend so many wonderful people. And it has allowed me to experience things I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Would I do it over again? You bet I would!”
Belmonte’s fellow officers are Angelo N. Castanza Jr., first vice president; Lisa Perkins, second vice president; Mario Salerno, third vice president; Angela Morrone-Incandela, recording secretary; Alberto DeCicco, corresponding secretary; Frank Salerno, treasurer; Mary De Santo, assistant treasurer; Carmine Russo, sergeant-at-arms; and John Spina, legal adviser.
For more information, visit www.calabresiinamerica.org.