From July 26 through July 30, members and representatives of 113 chapters from across the country converged on Scottsdale, Arizona, at the J.W. Camelback Inn Resort and Spa for their 95th annual convention. The agenda was packed full of issues of great importance to the organization’s motto “Service Above Self”.
UNICO was founded by Doctor Anthony Vastola on October 10, 1922, in Waterbury, Connecticut. There were 15 men at the first meeting lead by Dr. Anthony Vastola. His dream was to create a service organization funded by Italians that would engage in charitable works, support higher education and perform patriotic deeds. The name in Italian means unique and it was to become unique in its service to our nation.
In keeping with the reason for the founding of the organization, UNICO National created committees such as the Jimmy V. Cancer, Cooley’s Anemia (fights a decease that affects people the from Mediterranean area), Mental Disease, Anti-Bias, Columbus Day, Disasters here and abroad, Italian studies, various scholarships funding careers in engineering, nursing, science, fine arts, language and a variety of other fields of study. Members from all over the country volunteer to be part of these and more of the organization’s endeavors to serve locally, nationally and globally. They have forged friendships that last throughout the years and have joined with other national Italian organizations to keep Columbus Day alive and to fight bigotry and discrimination against Italians and others.
Locally, we are very fortunate to have the St. Louis Chapter of UNICO here in our city. The chapter holds the Alphonse Lordo Memorial Golf Classic annually that benefits Our Little Haven, Siteman Cancer Center, John L. Trotter Multiple Sclerosis Project and the Multiple Sclerosis Center of St. Louis plus other local charities.
Many of the organization’s members across the country fund these activities. At the convention in July, the UNICO Foundation voted to award the St. Ambrose Society in St. Louis with a $1,000 grant from the Torraco family.
The St. Ambrose Society is the brain child of the parish deacon, Joseph Fragale. More than a year ago, he began a program to feed the homeless starting with parish volunteers making 1500 sandwiches that were then brought to St. Patrick’s Center. The program has swelled to include Father Dempsey’s Charities which feeds homeless veterans, Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s order she established here and other homeless food programs. Fragale is currently planning an expansion of the society’s activities which includes partnerships Criminal Justice Ministry (CJM) of the Archdiocese and St. Vincent’s Orphanage.