IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT CHARITY IS A VIRTUE OF THE HEART, AND NOT OF THE HANDS. HOWEVER, WHEN IT COMES TO THE EFFORTS OF THE NOBLE SONS OF ITALY, IT IS CLEARLY A COMBINATION OF BOTH.
Originally called “L’Ordine Figli d’Italia,” the Order Sons of Italy in America was established in the Little Italy neighborhood of New York City on June 22, 1905, by Vincenzo Sellaro, M.D., and five other Italian immigrants who came to the United States during the great Italian migration (1880-1923). Their aim was to create a support system for all Italian immigrants that would assist them with becoming U.S. citizens, provide health/death benefits and educational opportunities and offer assistance with assimilation in America.
Highlights in OSIA’s history:
In its early years, OSIA established free schools to teach immigrants English and centers to help them become U.S.citizens. The first OSIA lodges established orphanages and homes for the elderly, life insurance and mortuary funds, credit unions, welfare societies and scholarship funds to aid members in need. During World Wars I and II, OSIA members bought war bonds and war stamps to support the war effort, and lodges competed with each other to contribute the most money to the Red Cross. In World War II, the OSIA Supreme Council (national officers) issued a resolution urging members to donate one day’s salary to the national defense.
Aug 1941 – In the National Convention of August, 1941, the Sons of Italy had gone on record as being anti-Fascist, anti-Nazi, anti-Communist and anti-Shintoist and had pledged full loyalty to the President of the United States.
Dec 23, 1942 – Six million Americans of Italian origin are united solidly against Mussolini, fascism and dictatorship all over the world. To date, OSIA members have given more than $83 million to educational programs, disaster relief, cultural advancement and medical research. Today OSIA has more than 600,000 members and supporters and a network of more than 650 chapters coast to coast, making it the leading service and advocacy organization for the nation’s estimated 26 million people of Italian descent.
Its missions include encouraging the study of Italian language and culture in American schools and universities; preserving Italian American traditions, culture, history and heritage; and promoting closer cultural relations between the United States and Italy.
The Sons of Italy Foundation (SIF) is a private, philanthropic institution established by OSIA in 1959. To date, the SIF has given nearly $115 Million to scholarships, medical research, cultural preservation, disaster relief, and other causes.
The Commission for Social Justice (CSJ) is the anti-defamation arm of OSIA. The CSJ is committed to fighting racism, prejudice, and the stereotyping of all races, religions and cultures, especially Italians and Italian Americans.
Photo of “L’Ordine Figli d’Italia,” the Order Sons of Italy was taken in Omaha,1923.
1926 – Lodge formed under the name “Benito Mussolini Lodge # 1419”
1928 – Lodge number 1492 assigned.
1929 – State Lodge established
1934 – Four lodges asked for recognition in July of this year.
January 20, 1935 lodge numbers 1717, 1718 and 1819 were merged into Lodge 1492; This was at the Knights of Columbus Hall on 20th & Dodge. 450 attended the dinner and 600 were present for the initiation.
1947 – The Benito Mussolini Lodge # 1419 was renamed and chartered as “The Christoforo Colombo Lodge 1419”.
1949 – Lodges 1492, 1717, 1718, and 1719 were all merged into “The Christoforo Colombo Lodge 1419”.
1954 – Heavy weight boxing champion Rocky Marciano came to Omaha to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony of our newly remodeled hall on 10th Street.
Our hall at 1238 South 10th Street:
September 26, 1965 – Omaha World Herald – The mortgage for the building at 1238 S 10 St. was burned today. The Sons of Italy Hall is now free and clear of any debt. Constructed about 1905, the one story structure was originally a carriage house attached to a larger building. The other served as a Lutheran hospital and old people’s home, but was later torn down. It was completely remodeled in 1954 when Rocky Marciano cut the opening ribbon.
1973 – Thursday dinners began.
1983 – Omaha World Herald article on the September opening of Sons of Italy Thursday spaghetti dinners. “They have been doing this for about ten years now.” Cost $3.50
2017 – On January 13, 2017 there was an immense fire that destroyed most of the building.. After a few major setbacks the new building rose out of the ashes and became the beautiful building we have today.
February 13, 2020 was our grand opening
What do we do locally?
Annual Events are:
- April – Spring Fling five course gourmet meal.
- June – Santa Lucia Mass and Parade
- July – Cooley’s Anemia Benefit Golf Tournament
- September – through May Thursday Dinners
- September – through May Friday Evening Dinners
- October – Columbus Day Banquet and Awards
- December – Member Christmas Party
- December – Childrens Christmas Party
Originally efforts were made to obtain jobs, housing and whatever was necessary to assure the newcomers assimilation into American society. As the years progressed and immigration tapered off, the Sons of Italy directed their efforts to aiding individual needy persons and a wide range of worthy causes.
The funding for these charitable deeds comes mainly from the proceeds of a weekly spaghetti dinner, held on Thursdays at the Sons of Italy Hall from 10:00 am – 2:00pm. Also a Friday evening menu of spaghetti and meatballs or sausage, hamburgers, chicken sandwich, salad, and French fries. Served from 5:00p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
These dinners are served every week from the second Thursday and Friday in September through the last Thursday and Friday in May.
The Sons of Italy have a complete liquor bar serving beer, wine, and spirits, at reasonable prices. Being a non-profit organization, the license does not permit sale of off-premise merchandise.
A large percentage of the profits are donated to a variety of needy groups or established charities and many meals are provided without charge. Free meals are made available to guests from Bishop Bergan Day Care, Lutheran Home, Social Settlement Association, homeless youngsters, and to anyone without funds in need of a meal.
An annual golf tournament is staged by our Colombo Lodge with the proceeds going to aid those with Cooley’s Anemia, a disease that is prevalent with people who stem from the Mediterranean area, which, of course, includes many of Italian descent.
How can an organization part with so much of its profits and remain afloat?
The late Joe “Butch” Turco, who managed the hall for many years preceding his death, said it was fairly easy. For beginners, there are no paid employees. The help consists of volunteer elderly retirees, many of whom grew up in the approximate neighborhood of the lodge. A minimal amount of expense is paid to a few workers from Omaha’s Open Door Mission and the Anthony House who aid in lifting heavy items and perform the more difficult manual work. In turn, whatever food remains after each Thursdays meal in contributed to the residents of those hospices. The women’s auxiliary lodge members are also a highly important facet of our food operation. Several women come in on Tuesday to help prepare meatballs or sausage for the Thursday meals. These women also contribute canned goods at each of their meetings which are distributed to the poor. Also, many of the women work beside their brother members during the Thursday dinners.
Politicians are allowed to greet diners but only on the outside of the hall. Too much commotion results when they come inside and circulate among the tables. The hall motto regarding this is People come here to eat, not to listen to political speeches!