An Homage to Heritage
● By Style
Photography by Dante Fontana, © Style Media Group.
There’s an old joke that says there are two kinds of people in the world—those who are Italian, and those who wish they were.
Looking at the work done by the local Sons of Italy chapter over the past 18 years, and it’s easy to see why anyone would want to be counted among them.
“While we’re certainly dedicated to preserving and sharing our Italian culture, one of our primary purposes is to raise money for the community,” says Jeanette Arietta, who helped found the local chapter in 1996. The club held its first crab feed in 1997 and today—17 years later—it has provided more than $80,000, as well as countless volunteer hours to support local nonprofits and health organizations. That’s not bad for a club of about 80 members!
The club’s biggest focus is providing scholarships for local high school seniors. In fact, two $1,000 scholarships are awarded annually to students of Italian heritage, and two “general” $500 scholarships are awarded to students who complete four years of Italian language instruction in high school. “We helped start an Italian language class at Oak Ridge High School 10 years ago,” Arietta says. “We dedicate an important part of the money we raise to sustain the program—providing books and materials—as part of our goal to encourage the study of Italian language and culture.”
Top: Butch Arietta, Barbara Matranga, Bomb Matranga, Mike Navoni, David Hyman
Bottom: Jeanette Arietta, Genny Arietta, Nadine Chianese, Joanne Hyman
That goal dates back to the founding of the original Order of the Sons of Italy in New York in 1905. Its mission, then and now, is to promote Italian culture, tradition and language, as well as the contributions of Italians to the U.S. and to the world. Since those early days, the club has grown to a national organization with more than 650 chapters across the country. The organization, however, exists to do much more than celebrate its collective “Italian-ness.” In 1959, it expanded to create the Sons of Italy Foundation, which has provided more than $126 million to scholarships, medical research, disaster relief and other causes throughout the country.
It’s in that tradition that the El Dorado Hills Chapter is dedicated to serving as many local charities as possible. The funds it has raised from crab feeds and other events have supported Alzheimer’s research, the UC Davis Birth Defects Library, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department, and the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation, which works to fight genetic blood disorders in children.
As with any nonprofit, the local Sons of Italy would always like to do more. The best way for the public to help is to come to the group’s events, and even consider becoming a member. “You don’t have to be Italian to join us,” Arietta says with a laugh. “We’re happy to welcome anyone who wants to provide help and support in our community.”
The club meets on the third Tuesday of every month at the El Dorado Hills Business Park. For more information, visit the group’s Facebook page.