Granby chapter of UNICO celebrates 20 years

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The local chapter of UNICO is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The largest Italian-American service organization in the United States, UNICO is an acronym for Unity, Neighborliness, Integrity, Charity, Opportunity.

In early 2003 Brian Guarco had aspirations of starting a local Italian-American organization in Granby. Guarco, owner of State Line Oil and Propane, approached John French, who had just opened the Edwards Jones office in Geissler’s Plaza. French was happy to assist but told Guarco he was Irish. Guarco smiled and said “Yes I know, but your wife is Italian.” The membership prerequisite is that an applicant must be of Italian descent or be married to an Italian-American.

With the help of members from the UNICO Avon Chapter, an Italian-American organization in Granby was well on its way. In an effort to find local Italian-Americans to join as charter members, a search was made in the telephone book for Italian last names to enlist potential members. A dinner meeting was held at the former Old Oak Tavern Restaurant where potential members were told of UNICO National and the services they provide. UNICO’s motto is “Service Above Self.”

After months of hard work and dedication, the Granby Chapter, starting with 17 members, was recognized by UNICO National and officially became the Granby UNICO Chapter on June 10, 2003.

Serving the community for the past 20 years, members take great pride in giving back through fundraisers such as Festa di Ottobre, an annual pasta dinner, an annual Golf Tournament, fried dough sales at Celebrate Granby (now Celebrate the Valley), and most recently, a comedy night show.

Since its inception, the chapter has contributed to Granby’s Food Bank, the Granby Fuel Bank, the Community Playground Fund, assisted with the Hurricane Katrina efforts, installed Bocce courts at Ahren’s Park, awarded scholarships annually to GMHS seniors, provided gift cards to Granby Families in need of assistance (the Secret Santa program) and contributed to the community holiday toy drive. The national organization supports the Jimmy V Foundation in its efforts to fight cancer. It also is a leading supporter of research to find a cure for Cooley’s Anemia, a disease which afflicts many Americans.

The Granby Chapter is all about helping others, but the members take time to have fun—the groups’ most recent motto is, “We have fun helping others!” Guarco, the first chapter president, promoted serving the local community but also wanted members to have fun. The chapter’s monthly dinner meetings at La Figata Restaurant feature presentations on Italian Heritage. Members have fun at the annual member social picnic, Christmas party and playing a friendly game of bocce at Ahren’s Park. Members also participate in other UNICO Chapter fundraisers and events throughout Connecticut and Western Massachusetts.

To mark its 20th anniversary the Granby chapter’s 35 members are planning a celebration showing how proud the chapter is to be members of UNICO National, ambassadors of their Italian heritage and serving their community.

2003 Charter Members

Barbara Berkowitz, John R. French, Michael B. Guarco Sr., Vito Rutigliano, Mario P. Dei Dolori, Nancy Ann A. French, John L. Laudati, James Sansone, Mary H. Dei Dolori, Michael Gibbs, Tom Petrunti, William J. Fiocchetta, Anne Guarco, Clementina Prioli, Tom Fredo, Jr., Brian V. Guarco, Karen Rutigliano.

UNICO would like to thank the local sponsors who, over the years, helped contribute to its fundraiser successes: State Line Oil & Propane, MLK&R Law Firm, Windsor Federal Savings, the Zen Group, the Cambridge House, Tom Fredo Enterprises, Galasso Materials, Old Well Restaurant, Landmark Tours & Cruises, Four Dad’s Restaurant, Geissler’s Supermarkets, Bob’s Stores, Smith Barney, Arrow Concrete Products, the Dei Dolori family, Farmington Valley YMCA, Horses & Hounds and local golf courses.

For information on becoming a member of UNICO, contact Tom Grimaldi, membership chair at