Members of the Italian-American Social Club of Tampa Bay meet monthly in Lutz with the goal of preserving their heritage for future generations.
The nonprofit club also provides a social atmosphere that’s conducive to meeting new friends.
And, it supports local charities.
“We’ll talk about events we’ll want to do – our future plans, but mostly it’s the camaraderie of the folks,” said Frank Giordano, the club’s marketing officer. “The folks really enjoy the togetherness.”
The organization initially branched off from the Italian-American Club based in Ybor City in 2014.
Italian descendants who attended the St. Timothy Catholic Church in Lutz noticed the ethnic group’s large number in the Tampa Bay Area – especially in North Tampa.
So, about five years ago, the church members decided to open a new branch to accommodate residents living in this region. It was a matter of geographical convenience — because it eliminated the commute time between North Tampa and Ybor City.
“I’ve been looking for a local club, so I joined,” said Giordano, who’d been invited to a meeting by a member.
Currently, the second generation Italian-American is among the club’s estimated 150 members.
Part of the reason the club has so many members is that it welcomes non-Italians to join.
All are welcome to join, Giordano said, whether the person is married to someone of Italian descent, or has no ethnic connection whatsoever.
With a grin, Giordano said newcomers can be expected though to hear members brag about their heritage.
Indeed, he might be the one who is bragging: “I’m very proud to be Italian,” he said.
Of course, club meetings aren’t complete without delicious food. Members bring dishes to share in a potluck meal before the business part of the meeting begins.
Some of the foods they share include pizza, spaghetti, pasta, salads, sausage and chicken, to name just a few.
With Italian music playing in the background, it is customary to stay active with several rounds of bocce – an Italian ball game.
Some of the club’s members hail from the homeland, and are known to tell stories about life in Italy. They also provide advice to other members who are planning to travel to the “beautiful country,” Giordano said.
While meetings are based at the Lutz Cheval Golf and Athletic Club, members occasionally go out for social gatherings.
This includes dining at Italian restaurants.
They also host holiday functions, such as the Columbus Day event and a Christmas cookie exchange.
But, the club goes beyond building friendships and socializing. It also finds ways to give back to the community.
Members raise funds by volunteering their time doing customer service for the New York Yankees’ spring training at George Steinbrenner stadium in Tampa.
With about 20 club members on staff each game, they help to distribute memorabilia and souvenirs.
“We like doing the team store – selling the goods,” Giordano explained. “Last year, we made $20,000.”
With those funds, they contributed to the charities ALS Association of Florida, Guiding Light and Make a Wish.
The club also places emphasis on higher education for high school students.
A portion of collected funds goes toward as many as five scholarships – $1,000 each.
The club sets criteria for what makes students eligible – foremost, being a family member of someone within the organization.
Mostly made up of older generations, the club is trying to attract younger members.
One of the club’s future plans involves inviting students from Steinbrenner High School’s Italian club, in Lutz, to their meetings.
Building membership will help the club sustain itself and will help it do more charitable work, as well, Giordano said.
The club welcomes new members, he said.
“Come to a meeting; [we would] love to have you,” Giordano said.
For meeting dates or additional information, visit ItalianAmericanSocialClubTampa.com.
Published April 10, 2019