When Dave Donnini grew up in Wilkes-Barre, he was surrounded by a family involved in the community.
"I learned from both my mom and dad, how important it is to help others," said Donnini, whose father Joe Donnini is a member of UNICO, the organization of people of Italian-American heritage who focus on charity in the community.
UNICO was founded in 1922 "to engage in charitable works, support higher education, and perform patriotic deeds" with chapters around the country. In Luzerne County, UNICO is best known for sponsoring an annual scholastic football game but the organization does other service work in the community and celebrates unity.
"I can remember the summer picnics at Harveys Lake, the father-and-son dinners at Aldino's (a former Wilkes-Barre restaurant), macaroni dinners, the UNICO football games," Donnini said.
UNICO left a lasting impression on Dave Donnini and at the UNICO National Convention earlier this month he was elected national president of the Italian American service organization. Donnini, 40, is the second youngest person to hold the title of UNICO national president.
As president, Donnini oversees 134 UNICO chapters in the U.S. and more than 7,000 members. His position is volunteer. He has the distinction of being the second Wilkes-Barre native to have that honor; in 1988 Frank Castrignano Sr. was UNICO national president.
Donnini's father, Joe, has been a member of the organization since the 1960s .
"My father was chapter president of Wilkes-Barre in 1980," said Donnini, who is a graduate of GAR High School and King's College. "In 2001, my dad asked me to come to a meeting at the Woodlands. Ever since then, I got more involved and started chairing different events."
Donnini said he co-chaired UNICO's annual pig roast with his father and he helped run the Miss UNICO pageant. He said about a year after joining UNICO he was asked to run for treasurer and won. He was elected 1st vice president in 2004 and held that position until 2005 when he moved to Redondo Beach.
After selling his business, Copacatana, which had locations in Wilkes-Barre, Dallas and Edwardsville, Donnini became a licensed Realtor with RE/MAX in Redondo Beach, California.
He joined the Los Angeles Chapter of UNICO National and his father said "he turned the chapter around." Donnini said he gradually climbed the UNICO ladder, serving in several positions with the national organization over the last five years. That culminated with his election as president this year at the UNICO National Convention on Marco Island, Florida.
His father, owner of Donnini's Hair Services on South Main Street, said the family is very proud of Dave's accomplishments.
"The national organization noticed what he did at the Los Angeles chapter," said Joe Donnini. "My daughter, Deanna, is now president of the LA chapter."
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, honored the new UNICO national president on the House floor with remarks entered into the Congressional record.
"It is an honor to recognize Mr. Donnini and his involvement in an organization that has given so much to the community," Barletta said. "I have had the esteemed privilege of attending many UNICO events in my congressional district, including pig roasts and charity events, and proudly witnessed the positive impact the group's efforts have made in my community.
"UNICO is one organization that has and still helps out many great causes," said Dave Donnini.
UNICO REGIONAL MEETING
The UNICO Eastern Regional Meeting will be held at The Woodlands Inn and Resort, Plains Township, Nov. 8-9.