New JCCIA leadership hits the ground running at 1st meeting

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The Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans came roaring out of the gate at its first official meeting following the January installation of its 2021-22 officers.

Recently elected President Ron Onesti and a burgeoning cadre of JCCIA leaders have the organization hitting on all cylinders as they upshift into their two-year terms.

The meeting was held on Feb. 24 in the recently renovated Italian American Community Room in the Community Center at Casa Italia. On full display were the 80 plaques already sold as part of the Casa’s massive fundraising campaign. More than 60 community leaders representing 30-plus organizations were in attendance, either in person or via Zoom.

President Ron Onesti offered insight into the organization’s approach to the ongoing Columbus controversy. Onesti also announced the launch of Il Bollettino, a weekly video e-blast designed to keep the community abreast of the organization’s activities. To sign up, email

First Vice President Lisa Ryan, chairman of the Italian Heritage Calendar Committee, invited groups to submit their special events for inclusion in a virtual calendar designed to help avoid double scheduling. According to Ryan, preliminary initiatives for Italian Heritage Month include encouraging local theaters and books stores to showcase Italian and Italian-American titles.

Second Vice President Salvatore Camarda, chair of the Marketing and Media Committee, reported 2,000 new website users in a six-week period and a 600 percent growth in traffic. Facebook and Instagram traffic has also increased, he reported. In addition, email platform has been improved, lists have been consolidated, and a database of more than 600 media outlets has been created. Updating the website’s design, streamlining the membership application process and expanding content are among the committee’s priorities.

Third Vice President Lyn Scolaro, chair of the Education Committee, announced plans for an Italian enrichment camp at Casa Italia this summer. Ways to increase in- and after-school Italian programs are currently being explored, and efforts are under way to introduce Italian to students in Elgin schools. Scolaro also announced national efforts to create a network of teachers of Italian and Italian-American teachers in all disciplines.

Women’s Division President Rose Mary Ranallo urged the community to donate toward the scholarships bestowed at the Division’s Aug. 7 Fashion Show. She announced a Festa della Donna celebration on March 8 at Antonio’s in Itasca featuring a video presentation of noteworthy Italian-American women, and reported that plans are in the works to bring back the Italian Heritage Ball and Cotillion.

Pasquale Gianni, president of Avanti Group, offered details on the newly formed young professional organization’s kickoff event, a Feb. 26 Festa di Carnevale at Victory Italian in Chicago,

Executive Director JoAnn Serpico sang the praises of the organization’s “unsung heroes”: office volunteers Phyllis Schoene, Jackie Mazza, Christine Cerami, Lilia Juarez and Arlene Ilia.

Columbus Patriot Committee Chair Carlo Bucaro announced preparations for a panel discussion about Christopher Columbus presented by the Italian-American community and hosted by the city of Chicago.

Legal Defense Committee Chair Anthony Onesto launched a search for attorneys willing to spearhead a lawsuit on behalf of Chicago’s Columbus statues similar to legal action taken in other cities.

International Relations Committee Chair Pat Capriati announced preliminary plans to build stronger ties between the JCCIA and agencies of the Italian government. Capriati will be devoting segments of his radio show Domenica Insieme to JCCIA events and activities. Visit to tune in.

Onesti appointed past Columbus Day Chair Mariann Gullo to co-chair the 2021 Columbus Day Parade and assist the chair of this year’s event, restrictions permitting.

Scholarship Chair Don Olson reported on the JCCIA’s four major scholarships: the Fischetti Scholarship, given at the Dante Award; the Annunzio scholarship, given at the Columbus Day reception; and the Patti and Vigilante scholarships, given at the Christmas party. Details and applications are available at the

A St. Joseph dinner was announced for the JCCIA’s next meeting, slated for March 24 at the Old Neighborhood Italian American Club.

For more information on all of the above, visit To become involved, email

About Paul Basile

Paul Basile has been the editor of Fra Noi for a quarter of a century. Over that period, he and his dedicated family of staff members and correspondents have transformed a quaint little community newspaper into a gorgeous glossy magazine that is read and admired across the nation. They also maintain a cluster of national and local websites and are helping other major metropolitan areas launch their own versions of Fra Noi.

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