New Sons of Italy president hopes to attract younger members
Perry Esposito took the helm as the new president of the Westbury Donatello Lodge #2559, Order of the Sons of Italy in America earlier this month. For the longtime member, being part of the Order provides a sense of camaraderie with people who love to celebrate their heritage. It’s a sense of fraternity he’s hoping will inspire the third and fourth generation of Italian Americans, as one of his goals for the future of the Order is expanding membership by attracting more young people to join, bringing with them fresh ideas and perspectives.
The Sons of Italy was founded on June 22, 1905 by Doctor Vincent Sellaro.
“Italian immigrants established lodges in the New York and Long Island areas as they came to the United States, following the mission statement of liberty, fraternity and equality,” said Esposito.
As new lodges were chartered across the country and Canada, the organization grew to be the largest Italian American organization in the United States. The Donatello Lodge in Westbury was chartered in 1984.
“Their current membership still includes some of the original charter members, such as Westbury Mayor Peter I. Cavallaro,” noted Esposito.
Although the organization’s members are primarily of Italian descent, anyone with ties to or a passion for Italian American heritage is welcome to join.
“Whether you’re born in Italy, born in America, half-Italian, married to an Italian or have a connection or an interest in some way, you should see what we’re all about,” said Esposito in his mission statement. “It gives you a sense of fraternity and allows you to celebrate Italian traditions with a group of people that love their heritage.”
Aside from celebrating the Italian heritage, the organization also performs a variety of different duties including fundraising and advocating for Italian Americans.
“We’re a nonprofit, so we organize fundraisers for causes such as autism, Guiding Eyes, and Cooley’s Anemia Foundation,” noted Esposito. “The Donatello Lodge also raises money to offer $500 scholarship opportunities, while the Grand Lodge gives out $80,000 a year in scholarships.”
In addition to fundraising for charitable causes, the organization also has a commission for social justice. Along with opposing negativity towards people of Italian descent, the organization also makes efforts to promote individuals who positively represent Italians, such as local doctors or lawyers in the community.
As the new president of the Donatello Lodge, Esposito has a vision for the lodge that includes the younger generation.
“I want to get them involved now, learn the organization’s procedures and observe their traditional fundraising events, such as their Night at the Races, dinner dances and casino bus trips,” Esposito said.
He hopes to hear the voices of third and fourth generation Italian Americans and incorporate their new and creative ideas at the organization’s monthly meetings or on a grander scale. Esposito believes that the ideas of younger members would help to attract a new generation of Italian Americans to the organization. He envisions these young members raising funds of their own by organizing group rate trips and ultimately utilizing and promoting the organization’s name in a positive light.
“A ski trip, a bowling team, a cruise trip….they can get as creative as they’d like, as long as it’s done in good taste,” said Esposito, “preserving our social order, our fraternal procedures and with respect to the organization.”
The Donatello Lodge meets on the first Wednesday of the month at the Westbury Community Center off of Post Avenue. Meeting start times vary between 7 and 8 p.m. depending on the agenda. For more information, contact Esposito at 516-997-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.