SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – At a borough council meeting last week, South Plainfield Mayor Matt Anesh recognized October as Italian Heritage Month and, on Monday, the Plainfields' Chapter of UNICO held an intimate outdoor Columbus Day ceremony. 

According to the proclamation made on Oct. 5, Italian Heritage Month is a time to 'recognize the enormous contributions that the Italian and Italian American people have made to this country and the world throughout our history' and 'to exhibit appreciation for their culture and their heritage that have enriched the lives of people around the world.'

'"Today, there are over 26 million Americans of Italian descent in the United States of which two million reside here in New Jersey, and have made significant contributions to our social, cultural, and economic life and the Italian and Italian American community enjoys a rich history rooted in an ancient civilization that has had a most profound influence on every aspect of our society," stated Anesh. 

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On Oct. 12, members of UNICO, along with state, borough and school leaders, gathered outside the senior center for a short ceremony in honor of Columbus and his contributions. As in previous years, the wreath, created a few years ago by resident Kelly Daley featuring a UNICO sash donated by Georgeann Cochrane of Mohn’s Florist, was also dedicated. 

Robert Bengivenga, Sr., president of the Plainfields' Chapter of UNICO, and Anthony Bengivenga, current district governor for UNICO District 10, discussed the Italian explorer's journey and discovery of America. As in previous years, Congressman Frank Pallone also attended the event, reflecting on the importance of celebrating Italian culture. Additional comments were provided by Mayor Matt Anesh and Council President Christine Faustini as well as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Noreen Tansey Lishak, and South Plainfield Board of Education Vice President Tom Cassio. Also in attendance was South Plainfield Borough Councilwoman Melanie Mott, and Debbie Boyle, who serves as secretary of the local UNICO chapter as well as a member of the board of education 

UNCIO was founded 98 years ago on Oct. 12, 1922 in Waterbury, CT by a group of 15 men who, under the leadership of Dr. Anthony P. Vastola, came together to create the organization. Since the inception of UNICO National Day in 1947, thousands of people and individual charities have been the recipients of the organization's charitable efforts. 

"The Plainfields' Chapter of UNICO is a valuable service organization of community-minded men and women of Italian American heritage who engage in many charitable works, support high education, and perform patriotic deeds in South Plainfield," stated Anesh in the proclamation. 

Due to the inclement weather during Monday's Columbus Day ceremony, the traditional raising of the Italian flag outside the senior center could not take place. Additionally, the current healthcare situation led to the cancellation of the annual Columbus Day Parade in New York City; in the past, members of the Plainfields' Chapter of UNICO would head to Manhattan to take part following the local ceremony. 

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