70 years of Italian-American culture, tradition and service

By Lucy Giardino Cortese
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The Italian American Club of Jacksonville is proud to be the oldest ethnic organization in River City. Its story began in the early 1920s when a small group of immigrants decided to form a social club to carry on their rich Italian heritage. Soon after, that original club disbanded, and in January 1935, the American Italian Club of Jacksonville (IAC) was born.

This organization consisted mostly of first-generation Americans “to bring the Italians together.” During World War II the club was temporarily disbanded, but friendships based on common bonds continued and carried through this time of national suffering. In 1951, the war ended, the club was officially founded by an official charter.

After years of assembly in members’ homes, restaurants and meeting halls, a pavilion on the south side of town became the IAC’s first official structure. The vision for a new venue persisted and in June 1978 the new Mandarin clubhouse was officially opened with much pomp and ceremony. This event cast the misty eyes of many remaining Founding Fathers whose children and grandchildren shared this special day with them. In the new clubhouse, IAC has over 250 members, spanning four generations of Italian Americans as well as their relatives and friends.

Varied activities for club members include dinner get-togethers, seasonal dances, Bingo and Bunko nights, picnics, Italian lessons, and off-site excursions. The Italian American club provides support for the I Am Special Camp, K-9 for Warriors, Wreaths Across America, and other local community projects. Public Awareness offers Spaghetti to Go on the last Friday of every month. The clubhouse is also available for rent for special occasions.

Every October, IAC honors Italian American Heritage Month with a celebration of all things Italian. Festa Italiana, now in its 30th year, invites the public to be “Italian for a day”.

Italian culture is rich in arts, family, culture, music and food. At the Italian American Club, members like to share stories, traditions and recipes when they get together. Membership is not limited to Italians and all are welcome to join.

For seven decades, the Italian American Club of Jacksonville has grown and prospered through its recognition of “Orgoglio Italiano” – Italian Pride! To visit www.iacofjacksonville.com for more information.

Photo courtesy of Lucy Giardino Cortese
During the inauguration of the new building of the Italian American Club in 1978.

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