“As you are aware, due to COVID-19, these have been challenging times for everyone,” Johnston resident George Lazzareschi Jr. reiterated when he stepped to the podium Monday night. “People have lost their jobs, become ill and businesses have closed, but the Italo-American Club remained strong.”
So strong, in fact, the proud social club – which is located at 477 Broadway in Providence and dates back to its founding in 1896 – added yet another chapter to its illustrious history in form of presenting an extraordinary, record-setting $14,000 in college scholarships.
The scholarships are traditionally presented in October at the club’s usually highly lucrative Person of the Year event held at the Providence Marriott Hotel, explained Lazzareschi who serves as the club’s president. However, the occasion was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had to make provisions because of the pandemic, yet as you heard from our former president (ex-officio) Anthony ‘Nappy’ Napolitano, tonight’s presentation is the largest amount of recipients – and money – in our club’s history,” Lazzareschi told an audience of board members and the proud parents and families of the 2020 scholarship recipients who sat at well-spaced tables in the club’s parking lot in order to observe the state’s social distancing rules.
A total of 14 members of the class of 2020 from various high schools each received a $1,000 scholarship that Lazzareschi emphasized “were made possible due to the tremendous work of our general treasurer Robert Villucci handling the financials during these tough times.”
In addition, as the always-smiling and popular Italo-American Club leader added: “I want to thank all our officers and Board of Directors for working together to accomplish this great event tonight; our Charitable Fund is dedicated to helping young people succeed in accomplishing their educational goals.”
Perhaps the highly-popular “Nappy,” as he’s known throughout the state’s Italian-American community, said it best while closing out his remarks and noting the club’s Charitable Trust Scholarship Program tonight is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
“You kids are the backbone of the Italian community,” Napolitano said, adding: “This is the most money we’ve every presented in scholarships. We wish the best and hope you enjoy outstanding successes in your studies and future. And please always remember: the more you learn the more you’ll earn!”
Thus, one-by-one each scholarship recipient was announced and received a personalized citation from Gov. Gina Raimondo as well as the check from Lazzareschi and Villucci, then made their way along a line of board members who also congratulation the winners.
“This was a great night,” offered Steve Mullane, the popular proprietor of Sheik Hair Studio in Johnston who doubles as a club member. “This was a perfect event, social distancing, great food and a great night for the club of Rhode Island.”
Because Maria’s Cucina, located inside the club, is temporarily closed, officials brought in Mickey G’s Clamshack of Cumberland, which served clam cakes with either white or red chowder, hot dogs, hamburgers and chilled watermelon and dined at red-covered tables which were adorned with a class jars featuring an official state of Rhode Island seal, sea shells and American and Italian flags.
The complete list of scholarship recipients, their respective high schools and what universities and/or college they’ll attend includes: Giavanna Arakelian (La Salle), CCRI; Christopher Azar (La Salle), Providence College; Michael Azar (La Salle), Salve Regina University; Eva Angelina Burchfield (North Providence), University of Connecticut; Ana Caliri (Cranston West), Quinnipiac University; Ava Caliri (East Greenwich), Merrimack College; Maddi Gervasio (La Salle), St. John’s University; and Andrew Hoag (Bishop Hendricken), University of Vermont.
Also, Hannah Kline (Bishop Feehan), Franciscan University of Steubenville; Olivia Lamarco (Pompernaug Regional High School), Holy Cross; Victoria Mantia (Cranston West), Merrimack College; Giancarlo Ricci (Lincoln), Salve Regina University; Brian Schattle (Bishop Hendricken), Loyola University (Maryland); and Colette Wicks (Cranston West), CCRI.