Recently, the Executive Board of the Italian American Association of the Township of Ocean (IAATO) hosted the Amerigo Vespucci Society (AVS) of Long Branch’s Executive Board for a dinner. The purpose of the invitation and gathering, according to IAATO President Mr. Lou Albruzzese was, “to break bread to thank the AVS board for the friendship that they have given to IAATO over the years.” The two organizations are both located in Monmouth County, New Jersey and consistently support each other at fundraising events, dinners, Italian and Italian American causes, and more. There are many local Italian Americans in Monmouth County that belong to both organizations. AVS President Mr. Joseph Sirianni stated, “There has never been a more important time for Italian Americans to unite and stand together. Our historic significance to this nation has been under attack.”
The dinner was the idea and concept of local businessman Mr. Robert LaBella who belongs to both organizations. He stated, “I was a member of IAATO for many years before also joining the AVS. I quickly realized that while both organizations are different, they are also very similar in the sense that they have dedicated members who contribute and donate significant time to positive and proactive causes. Both organizations are proud of their Italian heritage and the sacrifices that Italians and Italian Americans have made over the years throughout this great nation.” He went on to add, “Having an initial dinner between the two boards was a wonderful way to have both groups get together outside of fundraising and cause events and to just break bread and have a relaxed evening over great wine and great food.” The dinner was held at the The Renaissance in Ocean Township, located in the IAATO building.
This year marks IAATO’s 46th anniversary as an organization that is dedicated to children, families and the fostering of Italian-American heritage and culture. The Italian American Association of the Township of Ocean (IAATO) was started by a few dedicated members, and over the years, has grown into a membership that is now over 400 strong! Due to their growth they have been able to accomplish many of their goals as an organization, and increase many levels of service to their community. They recently purchased and rebuilt a new Italian Cultural Center, which serves as their headquarters. They are proud to announce its world class banquet facility, classrooms, meeting rooms and Resource Center. They also provide thousands of dollars in scholarships for students that pursue Italian Studies. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Explorers, Little Leaguers and many others have also benefited by receiving funds and playground equipment from IAATO.
The AVS, on the other hand, is a smaller but more historical organization. Founded in 1875 and incorporated in 1893, the AVS was originally established as a mutual aid society where Italian men could congregate, escape from discrimination and anti-Italianism that began during the period of large-scale Italian immigration during the late 19th century. Since that time the society members have made it a priority to assist each other and their families when there was/is no other place to turn. Today, the AVS continues to be a mutual aid society as well as a 501(c)3 organization assisting individuals and organizations in the community and providing educational scholarships. They are active in combating pervasive negative stereotyping and defamation of Italian Americans in the media and promote the extraordinary history and accomplishments of Italians and Italian-Americans. The AVS also promotes the admiration, general appreciation and love of Italy, its culture, society, arts and people.
When asked if there would be another dinner, Robert LaBella stated, “As soon as the dinner was over the AVS President, Joseph Sirianni along with AVS Vice President Joseph Mossa, welcomed the IAATO to a dinner at their facility in the Fall.” It sounds like these two organizations will be breaking bread and assisting their respective Italian American communities for many years to come.