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Half century of charity for Sons of Italy

September 28, 2018

For half a century, the Kankakee County lodge of the Sons of Italy has been holding an annual fall spaghetti dinner.

This year’s dinner, the 50th, will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Bourbonnais site of the Bishop McNamara Catholic School system. For longtime residents, it is the hall at Maternity BVM school, 308 E. Marsile, Bourbonnais. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youths 12 and younger.

Last year, the lodge served more than 400 dinners. People can dine at Maternity or take a meal home. About half of the people do that.

The dinner is open to the community. You do not have to be a member to attend. All proceeds benefit charities.

For longtime member Margurite Rowley, the dinner is something close to her heart. For many years, the sauce at the dinner was her recipe. Volunteers also would make meatballs. Now, much of the food served is donated by local restaurants.

Still, members will meet Saturday and early Sunday morning to begin boiling the spaghetti, setting the tables, making the salad and organizing the kitchen.

“This is something I definitely want to keep going,” Rowley said. “You see many of the same people year after year.”

While the dinner has been held at recent years at Maternity, it has been held in the past at other venues, notably Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School.

Bert Jacobson, lodge president, said that while the dinner is a lot of work, it is a worthwhile activity and a time for lodge members to work together.

“Fifty years is a long time for any charitable event, and it doesn’t happen without a lot of people working on it,” Jacobson said.

There are 80 members in the lodge. While it is the Sons of Italy in America, Americo Vespucci Lodge 1722, you do not have to be Italian to participate. Non-Italians are welcome as social members.

The dinner will include spaghetti, meatballs and sauce. Salad and bread are added, along with water. A glass of wine is available for purchase, along with homemade Italian cookies. The cookies also can be taken home.

Also at the event, the lodge will hold its annual split-the-pot drawing. Tickets are one for $10 or three for $25. Last year’s prize exceeded $2,000. Tickets will be sold at the dinner.

The lodge uses the money to donate to a variety of charities. Recent recipients include Catholic Charities, Hospice of Kankakee Valley, scholarships at Kankakee Community College, Harbor House, the Salvation Army and groups that work to provide services for persons with autism and Alzheimer’s.

Besides charity, the Sons of Italy works to reinforce positive role models for Italian-Americans, fighting negative stereotypes. It awards annual Leonardo da Vinci awards statewide, celebrating positive Italian-American achievements. There have been several local winners, including Kankakee Fire Department Commander Jeff Bruno and Tucci’s restaurateur Joe Armenise in 2017.

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