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Six decades of service to the community

1952 to 2012 … 60 years … a testament to JCCIA’S longevity and involvement in the Italian-American community.

In 1952, there was the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. There was no Casa Italia, Italian Cultural Center, Calabresi in America or San Francisco di Paola celebration. The Italian Chamber of Commerce had a very small office on LaSalle Street. The Italo American National Union and the Order Sons of Italy were flourishing with Italian Americans belonging to various “lodges” of both groups. Villa Scalabrini was our Italian Home for the Aged. Our Lady of Pompeii was still an integral part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

The first Columbus Day Mass was held in the field near the Columbus Statue in Grant Park, where the parade ended and Cardinal Stritch was the main celebrant. In later years, we began the beautiful tradition of beginning the parade with Mass at Our Lady of Pompeii church.

Sixty-two years later, the Joint Civic Committee is still focused and continues to sponsor many civic and cultural events as evidenced by our participation in “Christmas Around the World” at the Museum of Science and Industry. On prominent display, through the courtesy of Dr. Carl DiNello, a supporter of the arts, is one of his most valuable collections of Italian Christmas Nativity scenes, known in Italy as Presepios.

Adding to this yearly event at the museum is our children’s dance troupe, called the “Italianettes,” under the direction of Marilyn Cusiman Fredericks. The troupe entertains the audience with several Italian dances on the stage surrounded by the ever-popular Christmas Trees from Around the World display. They also perform “Winter Wonderland” at Navy Pier. Sue and Don Mazzoni are the sponsors of the dance troupe.

Continuing our focus on cultural and ethnic events is the participation of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans in decorating the Italian Christmas tree in the office of Maria Pappas, Cook County Treasurer, which is coordinated by Velda Davino. Navy Pier hosts the Consulates of Chicago Christmas tree display. The Italian Christmas tree, under the sponsorship of Consul General Alessandro Motta, is decorated by JCCIA volunteers Jackie Mazza,Theresa Paterno,Laverne Marcheschi and me.

We acknowledge the many organizations that are under the umbrella of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans and thank them for their many years of support for our Dante Award, Cardinal Bernardin Humanitarian Award and Queen Pageant, as well as our magnificent Columbus Day Parade.

Our newest tradition to our annual events is our Camminata del Biscotto, or Cookie Walk. This ingenious event was the brainchild of Enza Raineri, who was motivated by the desire for her children and all of our youth to be able to share in our culture’s traditional holiday baking. The camminata began in 2007, and attendance has grown yearly. The enthusiasm is energizing. The 130 bakers each proudly presented dozens of their favorite homemade cookies, along with recipes to share. How exciting it was to enjoy a traditional Italian Sunday dinner at Villa Brunetti complete with wine and dessert.

The cookies were prominently placed on tables along the perimeter of the room. After dessert, we eagerly waited for our table number to be called so that we could go and select the cookies we would take home to share with our families for the holidays. There was every conceivable sort of Italian cookie made from both old recipes and new. Some old recipes were changed to become new recipes with the addition of different ingredients by younger bakers. Through the courtesy of Dean Dalaly, our photographer, please enjoy all of the pictures below of our Cookie Walk.

Since the first camminata in 2007, the JCCIA office has compiled a Cookie Walk booklet, and a complimentary booklet is given to each baker. Anyone interested in purchasing a booklet may call the JCCIA office at 708-450-9050 and enjoy our cookie tradition with the rest of us!

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Fra Noi produces a magazine and website that serve the Chicago-area Italian-American community. Our magazine offers our readers a monthly feast of news and views, culture and entertainment that keeps our diverse and widely scattered readers in touch with each other and their heritage. Our website offers a dizzying array of information drawn from every corner of the local community.