About UNICO & Its History

U in the common brotherhood and UNITY of man created by an all-wise and loving GOD.
N that my highest fulfillment and greatest happiness are to be found in unselfish service to my NEIGHBOR
I that INTEGRITY of character-not wealth, position, or power-is the greatest possession I can have.
C that true CHARITY is not motivated by selfish purpose but is the expression of genuine love for my neighbor.
O in my responsibility to use every OPPORTUNITY to increase my usefulness to the needy and underprivileged.


FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q. What is UNICO National?

A. UNICO National is a nationwide service organization similar to Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary. Its membership is exclusively open to American men and women of Italian heritage, or persons married to men and women of Italian heritage, of good character and reputation. Members are united in a national chain, working jointly on national projects and separately on community activities, to uplift the prestige of our people. It is non-political and non-sectarian.


Q. What does UNICO do?

A. It grants scholarship awards, promotes Italian Study Chairs, observes Columbus Day with fitting programs, participates in underpriviledged and handicapped children's work, charities, community and civic activities, mental health programs, Cooley's Anemia programs, and promotes good fellowship among members.


Q. What does the name UNICO mean?

A. The name, translated from the Italian, means "one" or "only" or "only one of its kind." Additionally, the letters are interpreted as U-Unity, N-Neighborliness, I-Integrity, C-Charity, O-Opportunity.


Q. Why was UNICO organized?

A. UNICO was organized to provide scholarships to worthy students and to give strength and force in fighting the discrimination against Italian-Americans which is a deeply ingrained facet of our American Society. We have been discriminated against and have suffered many humiliations. It was time for us, who are law-abiding American citizens, to take action to offset this situation. This was done by doing good deeds for others. Thus the motto: "Service Above Self," which has patterned the whole activity of UNICO.


Q. When was UNICO organized?

A. UNICO was first organized in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1922 when a group of men headed by Dr. Anthony P. Vastola organized the first chapter, did a splendid job and won acceptance from the community. The idea then spread slowly to several other cities in the East, but it was not until 1930 that the first convention was held in New York City. A similar idea, unknown to the Eastern group, was started in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1931 as the National Italian Civic League and spread to about 15 cities in the West. Both groups continued their fine work during the ensuing years and in 1946, efforts were begun to effect a merger into one national organization. This was completed (and note the significance of the date) July 4, 1947, at a convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin when UNICO National was born.


Q. How many members are needed to form a chapter?

A. Fifteen members are needed to form a chapter. UNICO is not necessarily concerned about large numbers, but is zealous of the quality of its members - individuals who will devote time, energy and money to its activities. It wants the best of our men and women, individuals who will sincerely practice the motto of UNICO: "Service Above Self."


Q. Who screens charter members of a new chapter?

A. Charter members screen themselves since each is selected by the other. You know that only good members are wanted in UNICO and you are careful in your selection insuring that each member meets the qualifications of UNICO National. After the charter is closed, you will have a Membership Committee screen all applicants and your membership must approve them.


Q. Are donations to UNICO tax exempt?

A. Donations to the UNICO Foundation have been cleared through the Internal Revenue Department.


Q. How does UNICO National function?

A. It has duly elected officers who serve without pay. It is their responsibility to administer the affairs of UNICO National. These officers are elected at the annual convention by the chapter delegates in attendance. The officers are accountable to all the chapters, which comprise UNICO National. Each chapter has representatives (or votes) in UNICO National; chapter president and delegates.. And, of course, all actions must conform to the UNICO National Constitution and by-laws.


Q. How does a chapter function?

A. Each chapter is governed by local officers and a Board of Directors, and all actions must be approved by majority vote of the general membership in accordance with its Constitution and the National Constitution. All such actions are under the chapter's exclusive control, so long as they conform to the Constitution of UNICO National.


Q. Will a UNICO chapter compete with other groups of Italian heritage in our community?

A. No, there is no reason to. We want to work together with these groups and, by good example in our accomplishments, join in increasing the prestige of our people in the community. There is, and should be, no conflict of interest.


Q. Would membership in UNICO National affect our Americanism or our relations with other ethnic groups in the community?

A. Positively not; we are Americans first. America is made up of ethnic groups, ours being one. If we work to improve our group, through charitable acts, scholarships and civic accomplishments, we are helping to make better citizens and, thereby, a better America. UNICO is tolerant and will cooperate with any community group that works toward the improvement and welfare of that community.


Q. What does a chapter gain by being a part of UNICO National?

A. By joining this great UNICO movement, you become a part of a National effort to improve the prestige of our people. By its increased membership and by national cooperative achievement UNICO is stronger in combating discrimination and defamation, in assisting our youth through scholarships, and in general, improving the status of our people throughout the country. You become a part of a National group in which you can make many lasting friendships with members in various parts of the country, giving you a broader view and understanding of our country and its people. UNICO National also provides: (1) ComUnico magazine, a fine publication reporting UNICO activities and featuring articles of interest to the entire membership; (2) participation in the National Scholarship Program; (3) various Chapter forms and standard items without charge or at a minimum cost; and (4) Chapter assistance from the National office.


Q. Has UNICO National any control over our chapter funds?

A. No, provided you carry out the provisions of the Constitution in meeting your financial obligations to UNICO National: sending representation to National meetings and carrying out your responsibility as a chapter of UNICO National.


Q. What does UNICO National expect from a chapter?

A. UNICO National expects all its chapters to abide by the Constitution, meet regularly, do good in their communities, and bear their responsibilities to UNICO National by meeting financial obligations, attending National and regional meetings and supporting the National organization and its programs.


Q. What can we expect to develop through a UNICO chapter in our community?

A. You will develop better understanding and respect for each other, and for Italian-Americans as a whole. You will develop a desire to do things for others, giving of your time and support, in the pursuit of that most rewarding virtue - Charity. And you will develop a better citizenship by community activity, reinforcing the well-deserved recognition of the innumerable contributions made by Italian-Americans to the American way of life.


Q. What has UNICO accomplished?

A. UNICO has done so many things on a national and chapter level that it would be impossible to list them all. Generally, it has awarded hundreds of college scholarships, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the establishment of Italian Study Chairs in colleges and universities throughout the country, sent thousands of children to camp, raised millions of dollars for local charities and in support of local drives, recognized many individuals throughout the nation for outstanding achievements, sponsored a national mental health program, a national Cooley's Anemia program, and annually encouraged and participated in the observance of Columbus Day. UNICO National has come to the defense of the Italian name in many instances, deterring and criticizing those who may defame, ridicule or lower the standards of our people. It took an active part in the Ellis Island/Save the Lady Campaign. It has assisted in improving Immigration Laws. It has provided financial assistance to disaster relief such as the nationwide campaigns in the sixties and eighties that raised millions of dollars for reconstruction in the devastated areas in Italy. Closer to home, funds were also raised for the more recent Florida hurricane, California earthquake and the Midwest floods.