History of the Lancaster Italian Cultural Society
By Lyza A. Valenzo and Ann Marie Petrone
The Lancaster Italian Cultural Society (LICS) was founded in late 1998, as a response to an editorial letter written by Al Rossi, past Vice-President and Board Member. Our first meeting was held in Gus Alioto's office. The main topic of discussion was the creation of an organization that embraced the Italian history and culture. Lancaster County, a swiftly growing area in multi-cultural diversity, offered no formal organization that filled this need. At the next meeting held in February 1999, a group of individuals volunteered to become the Board of Directors and executive officers were elected. In March 1999, the organization's 10 Board Members were: Matthew Alfonso, Gregory Celia, Frank Errigo, Camille Gargano, Sandra DeVito King, Mary Leonelli Lennon, Gina Mariani, Michael Mastromatteo, Porsia Palumbo, and Nella Caponi Seward. Those elected as officers: President - Rudy DeLaurentis, Vice-President - Al Rossi, Treasurer - Joseph D. Roda, Secretary - Lyza Brugnolo. The five goals of the Society were drafted and included in our By-Laws. The following are those goals:
To promote and share an appreciation and awareness of the Italian culture and heritage.
To develop an awareness of the contributions of Italians and Italian Americans to the development of the United States of America and the world.
To sponsor artistic and cultural activities of Italian origin in the community.
To promote a greater understanding of the social mores and the values of the Italian heritage in the community.
To develop a greater sense of pride in Italian-Americans for their Italian heritage with a special emphasis upon educating Italian American youth, including but not limited to sponsoring scholarships, awards and special recognition for community service.
As of July 12, 1999, LICS boasted 134 memberships ("member " or "memberships" always refers to an entire household) - after only seven months in existence - an incredible accomplishment! On July
16, 1999, the organization was recognized as a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania corporation. As Al Rossi predicted, our members were excited for this new and emerging "cultural" family found in their own
community! In this first year, LICS sponsored trips to the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua in Delaware and to Ellis Island. Social gatherings such as the summer picnic and the Christmas party became
annual events. In early 1999, our "HOME" became the Italian Villa East Restaurant, a place to conduct general meetings and enjoy social activities.
On our first anniversary, at the March 2000 Board meeting, membership totaled 248 - an 85% increase from July 1999! The Society also continued to grow by exposing the members to various activities and cultural events. Nella Seward organized opera trips to Tosca, Rigoletto and Italian Girl. By popular demand, they sold-out! She also organized a wonderful trip to Italy visiting Rome, Florence and Venice. LICS created the Michelangelo and DaVinci Awards, presented to two high school students demonstrating outstanding artwork. Discussions began concerning LICS involvement in the refurbishing of Lenox Lane where the bust of Christopher Columbus is displayed. Proceeds from the 50/50 raffle money collected at our General Meetings were donated to various charities.
After three years, our membership grew, numbering 275. Our guest speakers during the 2001 General Meetings included: Michael Vicchiotti, a chef from York Technical Institute, Frank Errigo, a photographer in World War II and Gregory Pell, an instructor on Italian dialects. At this time, the organization began printing advertisements in our newsletter. The "Bravo!" section became a new feature which celebrates the achievements of members and their families. To show our patriotism, LICS made a donation to the September 11th Fund of the United Way.
In 2002, Dr. Justin and Susan Cappiello hosted our first (of many) Wine Tasting Parties at their home with Janice and David Longer following the next time. Nella Seward served as tour guide on another trip to Italy. Cities included Rome, Florence, Capri, Bologna, and Stresa to name a few. A few projects undertaken by LICS were: restoration of the bocce courts at Buchanan Park and a compilation of favorite recipes for an LICS cookbook.
At our first Winter Picnic, a second election was held to choose new Board Members and Officers. The Board was expanded to 15 members, one Past President and four Officers. Rudy DeLaurentis, our President since our founding, stepped down and was succeeded by Michael Mastromatteo. Our membership held steady at 275 in March 2002. General Meeting presenters were Joe Sebastian, Kathy Moretto Spencer, Dr. Ciotola. A scholarship committee was formed to provide money towards educational tuition. The applicants will write an essay on Italian heritage and the impact on their lives. The original committee members were Drs. Anthony Mauriello, John Palumbo and Justin Cappiello.