Earlier this year, members of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, Constantino Brumidi Lodge #2211 voted in their first woman president, Sabrina Savino. The Lodge – located in Suffolk County (on Long Island) in New York – received its Charter on February 28, 1969 choosing the name of the “Michelangelo of the U.S. Capitol” for its “significance and importance.”
President Savino started her two-year term in April and is confronting the challenges that leaders of many organizations throughout the world are facing. She graciously took the time to answer my questions reflecting on her Italian heritage and her role in supporting the mission of preserving our Italian American culture.
Janice Mancuso (JM): What are some early memories of your Italian heritage?
Sabrina Savino (SS): As a second-generation Italian American, I remember spending nearly every Sunday at my grandparents’ house surrounded by loving grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We drove from Long Island to Queens (on my Barese side) or Brooklyn (on my Sicilian side) and were greeted with chunks of Provolone and a shot of Galliano. After that, the food just kept coming and coming. No matter what hardships transpired during the week, on Sunday we gathered and laughed as a family. The adults often played cards while the cousins played together and checked to see if the figs were ready to be picked. When it came time to leave, after the hugs and kisses, Grandpa would slip each of his grandchildren a dollar bill and Grandma made sure we left with a homemade pizza.
JM: How did you become involved with the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, Constantino Brumidi Lodge #2211?
SS: My husband, Bob, was a member for many years and I attended many events with him and felt so comfortable being around so many proud Italian Americans. Once I retired from my full time job as a Technologies Project Manager, I decided the time was right to become a member. As the Lodge was not yet co-ed, I joined the Ladies Auxiliary in 2009 and became Auxiliary President in 2013. Once the Lodge became co-ed, in 2014, I was initiated and held several positions before becoming Lodge President this year; the first time in the Lodge's 52-year history to have a female President.
JM: Why were you motivated to run for president of the Lodge?
SS: Once rising to the position of Vice President, it seemed to be the only logical next step and with my husband having served as Lodge President, I had easy access to advice 24/7. I was confident that with my business background, together with 12 years of Lodge experience – working on various projects, committees and holding a number of officer positions – that I could provide a value-added role as President.
JM: Can you share some of your thoughts about being President?
SS: It is truly an honor and a privilege to be President of my beloved Lodge. The Principles of our Order include Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. I pledged to abide by those principles and, as President, I am committed to set an example. This comes natural based on my passion for Italian heritage and culture. In addition, there is a building, which requires fundraising to keep the doors open and support our Scholarship program. Combined, this creates a challenge of balancing interests with priorities.
JM: Taking into consideration the setbacks of the past year, what might be some challenges the Brumidi Lodge faces?
SS: The COVID-19 Pandemic forced us, like many, to rethink our focus to safety for all. Our members donated comforting items to nursing home residents, and with our internal catering company, we were able to donate meals to the local hospital's staff as a way of giving back and showing our gratitude. At the same time, it’s essential we provide for our own needs. Many new programs and events evolved from the combined management of Lodge officers; however, sustainability remains a challenge.
Another challenge we face, one many other organizations share, is membership addition and retention. This seems to me to be a generational issue. The commitment to heritage and culture is not as strong with the young, today, as it once was. However, we continue to reassess and change as the times change. Social Media plays an important part as we progress. Our website www.sonsofitalyli.com, along with our social media pages assist in reaching our target audience.
JM: By the end of your term, where would you like to see the Brumidi Lodge?
SS: At the end of my two-year term, I look to have built a team that continues to project a positive image of Italian Americans while serving the community. I would like to see a growth in membership and retention and a financially stable Constantino Brumidi Lodge #2211.