The Grand Lodge of California of the Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) held its 76th annual convention at the Peppermill Hotel in Reno, Nevada this past week, on June 28th, 29th and 30th.  With delegates from the Grand Lodge’s territory of California, Nevada, Hawaii and Oregon, the three-day event was presided over by State President Maria Fassio Pignati.
Guests of Honor included the Reverend R. Adam Forno, OSIA National Chaplain, and special guest Joseph DiTrapani, OSIA National President.
The keynote speaker was Nickolas Marinelli, Director of Community Relations at the Italian Cemetery.  Following last year’s address to the convention, Mr. Marinelli was invited to speak at numerous filial lodges throughout California, and was asked to speak again for a second consecutive time at this year’s annual convention.
In his address, Mr. Marinelli—who has served in the non-profit sector for the better part of thirty years—provided information on new, practical, and innovative fund-raising tools, which non-profit organizations can implement to maximize their fund-raising potential.
The highlight of the convention was the Black and White Ball, held on Saturday night.  Master of Ceremonies Chris Lotito kept the evening lively as the hundreds of delegates and guests dined to the music of The Debonairs.
New this year was a special raffle held by the Grand Lodge of California as a major fund-raising event.  State President Maria Fassio Pignati presented the winners of five consolation prizes of $500 each, as well as the grand prize of $5,000 to Frank Lo Cicero.
The gala concluded with the Thirteenth Annual Scholarship Awards Ceremony, presided over by Linda De Palma, Scholarship Committee Chair, and Roy T. Vanoni, representing the Sons of Italy Western Foundation.
Jenna J. Lawrence was awarded the $5,000 Bob Trinchero Honorary Scholarship, donated by Bob Trinchero, CEO of Sutter Home Winery. 
Kristen N. Vondak was awarded the $5,000 Dorothy Raeta Memorial Scholarship, donated by Dorothy Raeta. 
Joseph L. DeCicco was awarded a $4,000 scholarship, donated by the Sons of Italy Western Foundation in honor of the Officers and Members of the Grand Lodge of California. 
Danielle Dobos was awarded the $4,000 Luisa Onesti Memorial Scholarship, donated by the Italian Club of San Diego and the Fratellanza Garibaldina Lodge. 
Maria Piedimonte was awarded a $3,000 scholarship donated by the Galileo Galilei Lodge #1950 in honor of the Officers and Member of the Lodge. 
Gabriella Pezzini was awarded the $2,500 Ena Moresco Memorial Scholarship donated by Lester Pedrazzini and the Pedrazzini Foundation. 
Alessandra Saluti was awarded a $2,500 scholarship donated by Paula Uccelli in memory of Peter Uccelli. 
Allison T. Woods was awarded a $2,500 scholarship donated by Dorothy Raeta in honor of Attilio and Amelia Raeta.
Though not present to receive his scholarship award personally, perhaps the most touching story was that of Jonathan Wieland, who was awarded a $2,500 scholarship donated by Linda DePalma and Friends in honor of Richard DePalma.
In 2009, Mr. Wieland’s parents decided to pursue their own lives without him.  They left the fifteen-year-old in a three-bedroom house with twenty people who were not related to him.  Seeking a better life away from drugs and violence, Mr. Wieland left the house where his parents had abandoned him and chose to live on the streets instead. 
For two years, the homeless teenager continued to attend high school and maintained a high GPA, while also playing on the football team.  An Italian family that became aware of him provided the youth some support as he struggled to persevere in spite of his situation.  Expressing his gratitude to the Italian family, Mr. Wieland said, “If it wasn’t for their help I do not think that I would be the young man that I am today.
Giving back to the community, while simultaneously trying to survive on the streets, last year Mr. Wieland led a food and clothing drive for a homeless shelter in San Bruno.  He set up five community collection stations and collected 5,000 pounds of clothing and 3,000 pounds of food.  This past summer, he travelled to Nicaragua to teach English and help rebuild a museum. 
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