Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Food, folks, fun... and philanthropy

Winnipeg lodge of international order raises thousands for charitable causes

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Italians love good food and fellowship, and a group of local Italians has been putting those loves together to serve up philanthropic efforts for several years.

The Order Sons of Italy's Garibaldi Lodge, the first lodge of the international order to be organized in Manitoba when it was created in 1984, has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars through the years, thanks to the hard work of their 100 members.

President Justin Bova said most funds are raised through its annual gala dinner.

"Our main goal is philanthropic, which not only benefits the Italian community, but others," Bova said.

"But we're also a social club where we can play cards. Some of my best friends are members I've met through Sons of Italy. We can remember the old culture. It's still important to have a group like this.

"When you look at your last name, you should know what it means."

The Sons give to a who's who of charitable organizations, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Victoria General Hospital and St. Paul's High School bursary fund.

As well, the organization also gives to other organizations throughout the year, including Camp Quality Manitoba, Children's Wish Foundation and CancerCare Manitoba Foundation.

The Sons have also supported organizations in the local Italian community, including Holy Rosary Parish, Villa Cabrini and Centro Caboto.

Bova said there are a few restrictions to being a member: You have to be male, at least 18 years of age, and you have to be either Italian or married to an Italian.

There are two other lodges in Manitoba: the Lupa Di Roma Lodge for women and the Leonardo Da Vinci Youth Lodge for youth under 18.

John Giavedoni, a group member, said he probably volunteers about 200 hours of his time to help organize the annual gala.

"It's a lot of work, but at the end, to write a big cheque and have a big impact on a part of the community is great," Giavedoni said.

"With the Sons of Italy, we have a sense of purpose. It's also fun to get together with a group of really good guys. I know that if I had a problem, I'd make a phone call and a bunch of guys would be here -- that's wonderful to know."

Keeping with the dinner theme, Giavedoni said the group held it's sixth annual Christmas Eve Feast last year and brought together 300 adults and children from the West End who need assistance at that time of year. For some, it is their only holiday meal.

Giavedoni said donors were so generous to the feast that there was enough money left to buy more than $1,000 worth of toys to give to the Children's Hospital.

He said the Sons annually sponsor the graduation dinner for Rossbrook House with a meal served by the Sons and cooked by Sorrento's on Ellice Avenue consisting of -- what else? They are Italian after all -- lasagna, choice of salad and garlic bread sticks.

And it's not just through dinners that the group raises and gives away money.

A team of members signed up for the Challenge for Life and raised more than $30,000 earlier this year for CancerCare Manitoba.

"We are proud Italians, but we want to be exemplary citizens first," Bova said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2012 J14

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