LIVINGSTON, NJ — Dozens of Livingston residents convened at town hall on Wednesday to enjoy Livingston’s first Italian Heritage Celebration Ceremony and to mark Livingston UNICO’s 65th anniversary.

Although the celebration was moved inside due to the weather, it did not affect the commemorative flag-raising ceremony, where Maplewood Italian teacher Domenico Tancredi kicked things off with his rendition of the Italian National Anthem. Tancredi later spoke to the audience about the Italian flag and noted that there are currently about 3,000 Italians living in Livingston.

As he thanked the governing body and the Livingston Committee for Diversity and Inclusion (LCDI) for hosting the celebration, Livingston UNICO President Kevin Francione, who also serves the township as assistant fire chief, explained that UNICO’s mission for many years has been to raise funds for various charities—many of them local.

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Mayor Al Anthony spoke highly of the organization and expressed his gratitude to LCDI for planning the celebration and “for recognizing and honoring a people that have contributed so much to Livingston and this country for such a long time.”

“Thanks for coming out for this monumental night here in Livingston as we continue to honor, respect and embrace different cultures and ethnicities that make up our great town and nation,” said Anthony. “Our differences and inclusion makes us stronger than all other towns.”

Shedding light on how Italian immigrants were treated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the mayor talked about the Italian-Americans who “helped build this country” by providing labor for factories and helping to build roads, dams, tunnels, skyscrapers and houses.

He also thanked the “nearly 1 million Italian-Americans who have served in the armed forces and fought in World War II" and acknowledged many of the Italian-American singers, actors and actresses, directors, athletes, scientists and others who have made great contributions to the country’s cuisine, art and music.

Anthony also talked about anti-immigrant sentiment at the peak of Italian immigration to the United States from 1880 to 1920, when the United States was suffering from an economic depression and immigrants were accused of taking American jobs.

Adding to his appreciation of Italian culture was the mayor’s recent family trip to Italy, where he met with the mayor of Altavilla Irpina, and town in the province of Avellino, Campania and exchanged keys to their respective towns.

LCDI co-chairs Keith Hines and Billy Fine also spoke during the event to acknowledge those in attendance, who were treated to cannolis and tiramisu donated by Conca D’Oro Italian-American Pastry Shop in Union. Fine read an official citation from Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill commemorating Livingston’s first Italian Heritage Celebration.

Fine said that LCDI was “honored to bring the first Flag Raising Ceremony celebrating Italian Heritage in Livingston in partnership with Livingston UNICO.”

“This celebration celebrated 65 years of UNICO as well as the hundreds of years of Italian history here in the U.S,” said Fine. “We were so pleased to be able to work alongside the UNICO members in having a night full of passion, education, fun, and food. We were particularly happy to be able to achieve this as we had been working towards this celebration as one of our 2019 goals.”

Fine was also pleased that so many of Livingston’s “Italian-American icons” were present, including Anthony, Francione and UNICO member Maria Brush, who liaised between UNICO and LCDI during planning for the celebration.

He and Hines thanked all of the members of UNICO and LCDI who helped organize the event, Livingston emergency services for providing security, Congresswoman Sherrill’s office for the Citation marking the celebration, Mayor Anthony and the members of the township council for their support and Councilman Ed Meinhardt for serving as the council liaison to LCDI.

UNICO members Matt Ladolcetta and Gene Manto spoke to the audience about the founding of UNICO, which occurred in Waterbury, Conn. in 1955 by an Italian doctor who was not allowed to join another service group because of his Italian heritage. Manto also mentioned that he was happy that UNICO decided to include women as members because they work hard on projects.

“UNICO honors Italian achievements and remembers the hardships of immigration,” Tancredi said when he returned to the podium to encourage members of the audience to march in the upcoming Columbus Day parades and to attend the UNICO carnival.

On Oct. 23, Livingston UNICO will host an open house at the Livingston Senior and Community Center for anyone interested in learning more about the organization. Francione noted that anyone of Italian descent as well as non-Italians with Italian spouses are welcome to join.

In keeping with UNICO’s motto of “service above self,” some of the beneficiaries of the organization’s many fundraisers include the following:

Charities:

  • C.A.S.A.
  • Center for Hospice Care
  • Christmas is for Children
  • Stepping Stones
  • Mental Health Association of Essex County
  • St. Barnabas Burn Center
  • Cancer Research
  • Alzheimer Research

Civic:

  • Livingston Auxiliary Police
  • Livingston First Aid Squad
  • Livingston Human Resources
  • Livingston Memorial Day Parade
  • Livingston PBA
  • Livingston Volunteer Fire Department
  • National Night Out

Youth:

  • Scholarships/Awards/Contests
  • Brian Piccolo Award
  • Columbus Day Essay Award
  • YMCA Camp Scholarship
  • High School Scholarships
  • Sports Awards
  • Santa at the Gazebo
  • Little League Sponsorship

The organization also funds projects against Italian discrimination.

Click here for more information about UNICO.

Click here for more information about LCDI.