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Who we are and what we do

As we bid adieu to 2011 and welcome 2012, I would like to take this opportunity to enlighten all the visitors to Fra Noi’s enhanced website about who we are and what we do at the JCCIA. Our early leaders — Joseph Barbera, Anthony Paterno, Vincent E. Ferrara, Frank Annunzio, Joseph DeSerto and Anthony Sorrentino — had a dream of uniting the community, and as we enter our 60th year of continuous service, we remember and honor them.

Mission Statement

The Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans is an independent non-profit association dedicated to preserving Italian-American heritage and providing a unified voice for metropolitan Chicago’s Italian-American community. The JCCIA was founded in 1952 by a group of dedicated leaders, and currently serves as a congress for more than 70 organizations, as well as a clearinghouse for information about the Chicago-area Italian-American community. Actively working alongside the JCCIA are its three Divisions — the Women’s Division, West Suburban Women’s Division and Young Professional Division.

Civic And Charitable Events

The JCCIA’S Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Humanitarian Award is presented annually to those whose lives exemplify the virtues of caring, humanity and good will that were the hallmark of Cardinal Bernardin’s tenure as archbishop of Chicago. Past recipients (including Cardinal Bernardin) have been Phil Stefani, State Sen. Louis Viverito, Senatore Renato Turano, Lester Trilla, Nick Vangel, Oscar D’Angelo, the Rev. Richard Fragomeni, Theresa Petrone, Rose Farina, Robert Mariano, Dr. Enrico Benedetti, Dr. Leonard J. Cerullo, Monsignor Kenneth Velo, Joseph Rizza, Tom Cirrincione, Tony Durpetti and State Rep. Angelo “Skip” Saviano. Past JCCIA presidents who have been honored are Vito Cali, Anthony Fornelli, Stephen Fiorentino, Dominic DiFrisco, Louis H. Rago, Joanne Spata and Joseph M. Gagliardo. Also presented at the gala event is the Robert G. Cimo Peacemaker of the Year Award, which is bestowed upon a person who promotes harmony and unity within the community.

Cultural Events

The city of Chicago presents “Neighborhood of the World” at Crystal Garden at Navy Pier. Bella Italia is presented in partnership with the Istituto Italiano di Cultura and the Consul General of Italy. The JCCIA has been invited to coordinate cultural displays and vendors selling folk art. The JCCIA, Women’s Division, West Suburban Division, Young Professional Division, Casa Italia, Italian American Museum & Library, and Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel will present 10 exhibits and vendor tables.

The Impresa Award sponsored by the Women’s Division is a biannual program that recognizes professional women who have excelled in their various fields.

Fiera Italiana, a weeklong festival on Daley Plaza, is our newest expression, projecting the best of our culture and uniquely blending this festival with our parade.

The Mayor’s Office of Special Events sponsors a ceremony in downtown Chicago honoring immigrants who became new citizens. The JCCIA was called on for a representative to carry the Italian flag. Our sergeant-at-arms willingly and proudly travels downtown to do the honors at this event.

In honor of Italian Heritage and Cultural Month, Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, the JCCIA, the Justinian Society of Lawyers and the judges of the Circuit Court of Cook County invite children of the Chicago Public Schools on a special tour of the Circuit Court of Cook County at the Daley Center. Tour highlights include learning about the trial process and the legal system, visiting a courtroom for the viewing of an actual trial in progress and attending an informative session hosted by a circuit court judge, the president of the JCCIA and the president of the Justinian Society of Lawyers.

The JCCIA has sponsored Chicago’s Columbus Day Parade for more than half a century. The festivities begin with a Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, followed by a parade held on beautiful Columbus Drive featuring more than 150 floats, bands and marching units. The queen who reigns over these festivities is selected along with her court at a glittering pageant held early in the year.

Our Camminata Del Biscotto showcase’s our community’s beloved Christmas cookie-making traditions. This program is a tremendous success and is now in its fifth year, with more than 130 bakers bringing hundreds of their favorite cookies, together with their recipes. Every baker receives a cookbook with their recipe and goes home with assorted cookies from other bakers.

The Italian Heritage Ball and Cotillion is an elegant event sponsored by the Women’s Division for the past 40 years. We are proud to see that many of the debutantes are daughters and granddaughters of women who made their debuts decades ago.

The JCCIA has taken part in the “Christmas Around the World” exhibit sponsored by the Museum of Science and Industry for more than 35 years. Thanks to the hard work of dedicated volunteers, the Italian contribution to this exhibit is a beautiful presepio, which is on display from Thanksgiving Day to Jan. 6.

The JCCIA is proud to have been commissioned by the Italian Consul General to decorate the Italian tree at “Winter Wonderland” at Navy Pier, during which our Italianettes perform for thousands of spectators.

Human Relations

The Human Relations Committee is maintained by the JCCIA to investigate charges of defamation against Italian Americans. The Dante Award luncheon honors an outstanding journalist whose work reflects the pursuit of truth that was the hallmark of Italian poet Dante Alighieri. Past awardees have been Irv Kupcinet, John Madigan, Bill Kurtis, Hugh Hill, Joan Esposito, Walter Jacobson, Raymond Coffey, Mark Giangreco, Peter Walker, Emily Barr, Larry Wert, Allison Rosati, Neil Steinberg and Linda Yu.

Scholarship Programs

More than $200,000 has been awarded to students of Italian heritage over the years, primarily through the John Fischetti Scholarship and the Frank Vigilante Scholarship. In addition, more than $200,000 has been awarded to Italian-American women through the Women’s Division of the JCCIA at their annual Scholarship Fashion Show and Dinner.

Vital Statistics

More than 70 Italian-American organizations work together under the JCCIA umbrella. Without them, there would be no JCCIA, and we are very grateful for their support.

The JCCIA is guided by president Antonio Romanucci, Executive Director Jo Ann Serpico, First Vice President Joseph Rago, Second Vice President Mauro Glorioso, Third Vice President Christine Cerami, Treasurer Eugene Renda, Secretary Angela Rinaldi, Sergeant-At-Arms, Ralph Imbrogno, President Emeritus Dominic DiFrisco, Legal Adviser Joseph Gagliardo, Historian Angela Petrone, and Chaplain Claudio Holzer. Our Women’s Division president is Rose Mary Ranallo, our West Suburban Women’s Division president is Laverne Marcheschi and our Young Professional Division president is Pasquale Laudando.

Our offices are located at Casa Italia, 3800 Division St., Stone Park. Our executive secretary, Marie Palello, who has been with our organization from the onset, is ably assisted by three regularly scheduled volunteers — Lilia Juarez, Mary DeSanto and Laverne Marcheschi — as well as many other volunteers who help out as needed.

Membership

All affiliated organizations — which include Italian-American clubs, religious societies, veterans group and civic organization — contribute $100 annually. All affiliated organizations are recognized on our letterhead. Annual dues for individual member of the JCCIA and each of its divisions are $30.

About Fra Noi

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.