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A new beginning at the JCCIA

As I sat to write this article about being elected president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, I was struck by how life has come full circle. As a child of immigrants from Sicily, I have marveled at how far our family has come since arriving in the United States in the mid-1950s. Like others before them, they were seeking good jobs so they can take care of their families. Not much has changed as immigrants still seek out America as the beacon of hope as a free society allowing for free speech, religious freedom and ability to become as successful as one chooses to be. Here I am — just two years shy of the age my grandfather was when he uprooted his six children including my mother and began the journey to America — heading up the Italian-American umbrella organization in the Chicago area.

I am humbled by the opportunity to serve alongside our officers to preserve our traditions and promote growth and involvement in our sister organizations.

My goals for the next two years are to help strengthen our umbrella organization by providing volunteer opportunities so people feel they can share their talents and be involved; to provide more scholarship for Italian American young adults seeking to further their education; to increase our visibility as a viable networking source; and to be a strong voice for unity throughout the Italian American community.

In four months, we have already made great strides in all of these areas. What unites us is our love of the culture we were taught by our parents and grandparents so we can pass that on to the next generation. We must also remember to fight for our rights to celebrate those traditions and holidays we hold so dear, such as Columbus Day. In recent years the Columbus Day holiday has come under attack prompting some cities around the United States to cancel the annual October celebration altogether. I for one do not believe this should be allowed to go on that we as a community remain silent. We can unite to make our voices heard locally and nationally that we will not allow Columbus Day and its meaning erode and fade into the sunset. We intend to continue to celebrate and educate people on the positive impact Columbus has made as the great explorer and navigator of his time. That is why this year’s parade theme is Columbus Around the World. Our focus is to show that the positive impact Columbus had around the world is still being felt today.

This year, we are fortunate to have a vibrant and amazing Columbus Day Parade chairman in Mr. Sergio Giangrande. A child of immigrants himself, Sergio personifies the perfect blend of the immigrant story and the Great American Dream. Deeply in touch with his roots, he came here from Italy as a young boy and has grown up to be a successful businessman, husband and father. He is working hard to bring together an incredible Columbus Day Parade for the Chicago area on October 9, 2017.

I’m also excited about the months to come as we begin our event season with the Dante Awards in May, where we will honor Mr. John Idler, president of ABC Chicago. And in June, we will bestow the Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Humanitarian Award upon Mr. Michael Lufrano, executive vice president for community affairs and chief legal officer for the Chicago Cubs. Both gentlemen are incredibly gifted individuals who have been tremendous friends to our community. I am thrilled that both are being honored this year.

We are starting off the year strong, and we will get stronger and better. As I say, it’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s about WE!

Until next time, Ciao for now!

For more information, contact the JCCIA office at 3800 Division St., Stone Park IL 60165; 708-450-9050; or jcc@jccia.com, or visit jccia.wordpress.com.

About Enza Raineri

Enza Raineri is the president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, having previously served as second and third vice president of the JCCIA. She is the associate clerk of the Criminal/Juvenile Bureau for the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and has spearheaded the Clerk’s office annual Italian-American Heritage Month Celebration for more than a decade. She is a board member of the Italian American Political Coalition and is active in the Justinian Society of Lawyers, serving as a liaison with the Clerk’s Office. She has been honored by the Order of Sons of Italy in America and the JCCIA Women’s Division.