Banking executive Peter Volpe will be honored as Man of the Year and Stone Park Mayor Beniamino Mazzulla will receive a Chairman’s Special Recognition Award at Casa Italia’s 47th annual gala on April 22 at Alta Villa Banquets in Addison. (708-345-5922, casaitaliachicago.org)
Casa Italia is proud to present its 2017 Person of the Year Award to banking executive Peter Volpe.
“Whenever duty has called, Peter has answered,” says Casa Chairman John Ferrentino. “When he joins an organization, he puts his heart and soul into it and he always emerges as a leader.”
Peter is the grandson of Salvatore and Josephine (Cannalte) Tarantino and Peter and Angeline (Triggin) Volpe, and the son of Charles and Barbara Volpe. He and his brother, Paul, were raised on the Northwest Side of Chicago in a home that they shared with their maternal grandparents.
Their father was a heating and air conditioning serviceman and their mother was an office worker, but with their maternal grandparents on hand, the two boys were always surrounded by family. “I was lucky to have two sets of parents: my grandma and grandpa from 9 to 5 and my mom and dad from 5 until bedtime,” he fondly recalls.
After attending Bridge Grade School, Holy Cross High School and Northeastern University, Peter decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. But after graduating from trade school, opportunity knocked. “I took a job at a bank while I was waiting for my union application to be approved and I liked what I saw.”
A temporary job became a lifetime vocation, with Peter quickly ascending the banking ranks from teller to branch manager to vice president of retail banking and wealth management, first at Lincoln Park Savings Bank and now at ABC Bank of Chicago.
Of ABC Bank Chairman Sam “Scott” Scambiattera, Peter says, “He’s a great mentor. He leads by example, he’s a man of his word and he’s the hardest working person in the entire bank.”
In his current capacity at ABC Bank, Peter oversees 11 managers and 60 employees who take their responsibilities to their customers very seriously.
“We work with our customers from the moment they walk through the door to open an account, through the early years of their financial planning, all the way to retirement,” he explains. “We love being able to help them save and invest for themselves, their families and their future.”
That sense of long-term commitment has extended to every community Peter has served and lived in.
Over the years, he has presided over the Franklin Park Chamber of Commerce and the Park Ridge Lions Club. A longtime resident of Elmwood Park, where he lives with his wife, Elsa, and daughter, Laura, Peter is a board member of the Elmwood Park Community Unit School District 401 and the chairman of the Economic Development Commission for the village.
Passionate about his heritage, Peter is an avid bocce player and makes his own wine, sausage and pizza. That passion drew him to the Columbian Club of Chicago in 2006. Since then, he has served on countless committees and held every office, including president. “It’s not just a club to me, it’s an extension of my family.”
He first served on the Casa Board as a representative of the Columbian Club, subsequently signing on as an individual member, and recently accepted the post of vice chairman. “Ron Turano is a dear friend and when I saw how passionate he was about the Casa I was inspired to follow in his footsteps.”
Peter formed the Casa Italia Bocce League last year at the urging of another Casa stalwart, Tony Fornelli, and he’s looking forward to expanding on a wildly successful first season. “We had a great time last year, and we also were able to introduce a lot of good people to the Casa and all it has to offer.”
When the Casa invited Peter to serve as Person of the Year, Peter, as always, rose to the occasion.
“It’s a huge honor but it’s also a huge responsibility,” he says. “The dinner dance is a crucial source of funding for the Casa, and if I can play a part in making the event a success, then I’ll feel like I really accomplished something.”
Mayor Beniamino Mazzulla
Casa Italia is proud to present Stone Park Mayor Beniamino Mazzulla with a Chairman’s Special Recognition Award at this year’s Gala.
“The Casa has no better friend than Mayor Mazzulla,” says Casa Chairman John Ferrentino. “He is fiercely devoted to his constituents and his heritage, and he serves them with equal passion and skill.”
Born in Rende, Calabria, Mayor Mazzulla is the son of Luigi and Carolina Mazzulla, and the grandson of Francesco and Carmela Mazzulla and Antonio and Mary Scarlato.
He was only 6 when he and his siblings — Carmelina, Eugenio and Ivano — moved with their parents to Stone Park, a tiny western suburb that was heavily Italian with a growing Mexican population.
Like all immigrant children, young Beniamino learned English, made friends with kids of all nationalities and found a place in his new hometown.
While both of his parents worked at the Zenith factory at North and 25th, he attended Grant primary and elementary schools, Roosevelt Junior High and Proviso West High School.
After taking courses at Triton College, he settled on a career that had taken root in his youth. “I used to work in my parents’ garden every year, turning over the dirt, cutting the grass,” he explains. “I loved working outdoors and it sparked my interest in landscaping.”
With so many neighbors, friends, employees and customers of Mexican descent, he learned to speak Spanish as fluently as he does English and Italian. His strong ties to the community transformed him from a resident and entrepreneur to an activist and political leader.
“It was a great town to grow up in but things began to change,” he says. “The political party that was in power only took care of their own, and they neglected the rest of the community. Basic services were falling apart and there was a lot of injustice”
He ran for trustee in 1999, losing by only 30 votes. Setting his sights higher in 2001, he ran for mayor under the Neighbors in Action banner and won, retiring from landscaping to devote all of his energies to his new calling. “We made a vow that we would unify the village and that’s what we did. We sponsor numerous events throughout the year that make residents feel a part of the community.”
Among them are cleanup days and an annual Easter egg hunt, Memorial Day parade, Fourth of July celebration, rodeo, Halloween party and a Christmas parade that includes photos with Santa.
The mayor next focused on improving basic services like garbage pickup, street sweeping and tree trimming while steadily paving streets, rehabbing alleys, upgrading lights and replacing water mains. Then came major projects like the beautification of North Avenue, and the construction of a community center on Mannheim Road and a new village hall on 32nd. On the economic development front, he has dedicated himself to bringing family friendly businesses to Stone Park.
“We may be a small town, but the residents are hard working and they have a lot of pride,” the mayor says. “We’ve shown what you can do when everyone comes to together for the good of the community.”
According to Mayor Mazzulla, Casa Italia has been the crown jewel of that community ever since the 1930s, when the Scalabrini Fathers first unveiled it as the Sacred Heart Seminary.
“It’s a beautiful property with wonderful facilities and we’re all so proud of it,” he enthuses. “We work hand-in-hand with the Casa to keep it the gem that it is.”
Mayor Mazzulla has been married to his wife, Gabriela, for 22 years. Like his parents, they have been raising their children — Isabella (20), Dominique (19) and Ben (16) — in Stone Park. Through it all, the Casa, and the seminary before it, has been a constant.
“It was there for the community when I was growing up, while I was raising my family and throughout my tenure as mayor,” he says. “At the end of the day, the Casa is a holy place and it will always have a home in Stone Park.”