Mazzini-Verdi Club President Bernard Ghilarducci

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Bernard Ghilarducci and Luigi Banducci are close friends who have been at the helm of the Chicago-area Mazzini Verdi Club since about 2007, when they started alternating two-year presidency terms. Ghilarducci’s current term as president started Jan. 1.

A retired engineer, he has been a member of the club since 1980, when he and his wife, Fidalma, joined following the example of friends. “We joined to be part of the Italian community,” he says.

The social and cultural club derives its name from Giuseppe Mazzini, an Italian politician whose activism helped unify the country in 1861, and Giuseppe Verdi, the 19th-century opera composer.

Founded as the Mazzini Club, the organization celebrated its 90th anniversary last year. In 1948, the Mazzini Club merged with another Italian social club, the Verdi Club, yielding the Mazzini Verdi Club. The club relocated in 1976 to its current address at 9230 Belmont Ave. in Franklin Park.

The clubhouse has a full kitchen, banquet area, full bar,with RAI satellite television in the bar area, a card room, three indoor bocce courts and ample free parking.

Originally from Lucca, in Italy’s Tuscany region, Ghilarducci moved to the suburbs of Chicago at age 22 after meeting his wife-to-be while she was on vacation in Italy. The couple live in Wayne, Illinois, and have two daughters and four grandchildren.

Ghilarducci is also active with the Associazione Lucchesi nel Mondo, which rents space in the Mazzini Verdi Club, and is a former member of the Alpine Country Club and of the now-defunct Maroon Soccer Club.

The Mazzini Verdi Club’s social events are open to everyone, with an extensive lineup including an Easter dinner in April, a Mother’s Day dinner in May, a golf outing in June, a picnic in July, a presidential ball in December and a New Year’s party.

The Mazzini Verdi has a very actively Ladies Club which organizes a Valentine’s Day dance in February a St. Joseph’s Table in March, Festa Fuori in August, an Italian Heritage Dance Celebration in October, and a Christmas party in December.

(For more about the Ladies’ Club, see the adjacent profile of its president, Giovanna Carlino.)

Anyone can join the Mazzini Verdi Club, which charges a $200 annual fee.

Those who joined decades ago, like Ghilarducci, had to pay a $1,000 fee, which allowed them to become “equity members.” After that, they would pay a $200 yearly fee.

Around 2007, Ghilarducci, then the executive vice-president, proposed adding a new “social member” category that required only the yearly fee, no equity fee.

Nowadays, there are about 100 equity members and about 150 social members. The only difference is that only equity members can attend membership meetings and vote on matters concerning the club, Ghilarducci says. Otherwise, all members have access to all the activities and opportunities offered by the club.

The men’s bocce league games, featuring 30 to 40 players, take place on Monday, followed by a cenetta typically attended by about 150 people. For $30 per person, the dinners include soup, pasta, two meats, vegetables, salad, ice cream and wine.

Bocce games are both social and serious. Each week, the losing players have to fork out $5, contributing to a pot that is distributed among the top three winners each season. “It’s enjoyable, and you need a little bit of incentive to play,” Ghilarducci says.

Ghilarducci says that what he appreciates most about the club is the chance to socialize with others. “We get to a certain age, and people like to spend time together talking, arguing, whatever it is,” he says.

Thanks to its robust membership, the nonprofit is in good financial shape, Ghilarducci says. Its annual golf outing raises money to cancer research, he adds. “We want to make sure that the club stays strong for generations to come,” he says.

For more information, call the club at 847-671-0055.

Mazzini Verdi Ladies Club Giovanna Carlino

Mazzini Verdi Club Ladies Club President Giovanna Carlino has made many deep friendships thanks to the club, and she encourages others to join and experience the same gift.

“It’s an enjoyment,” she says. “All of us when we go, we are happy people, we greet each other like we haven’t seen each other for years but we saw each other yesterday.”

A native of Palermo, Carlino moved to Chicago at age 19, following in the footsteps of her sister, and eventually got married and had one child. She and her first husband started a beauty business selling wigs and doing hairstyle and makeup.

Carlino joined the Mazzini Verdi Club in the 1990s and became more involved after her second husband passed away in 2017. She started volunteering for all sorts of events, joined the board and became president in 2020. Her current two-year term as president of the Ladies Club started Jan. 1.

Carlino also serves on the board of the Italian American Executives of Transportation, and is a member of Associazione Regionale Siciliani in America and the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans.

The Mazzini Verdi Club’s social events are open to everyone, with an ample lineup including an Easter dinner in April, a Mother’s Day dinner in May, a golf outing in June, a picnic in July, a presidential ball in December and a New Year’s party.

Events specifically organized by the Ladies Club include a Valentine’s Day dance in February a St. Joseph’s Table in March, Festa Fuori in August, an Italian Heritage Dance Celebration in October, and a Christmas party in December.

(For general information about the club, see the adjacent profile of its president, Bernard Ghilarducci.)

The Ladies Club create flower arrangements and centerpieces for all the events. “We make everything very elegant,” says Carlino. Members also assemble baskets to be raffled off at events to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and other worthy causes.

The women’s bocce league takes place on Wednesday, followed by card games and some light food. The Ladies Club meets monthly, followed by bingo, coffee and homemade dessert.

The Mazzini Verdi Club is all about camaraderie and support for one another, Carlino says. “The ladies get along absolutely wonderfully, and all of us try to help each other because we love this club. We want this club to flourish and to go on.”

For more information, call the club at 847-671-0055.

 

 

About Elena Ferrarin

Elena Ferrarin is a native of Rome who has worked as a journalist in the United States since 2002. She has been a correspondent for Fra Noi for more than a decade. She previously worked as a reporter for The Daily Herald in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, The Regional News in Palos Heights and as a reporter/assistant editor for Reflejos, a Spanish-English newspaper in Arlington Heights. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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