FIAO holds 39th anniversary gala honors members of the community

The Federation of Italian Americans (FIAO) celebrated its 39th anniversary Saturday, April 3 at El Caribe Country Club, 5945 Strickland Avenue.

Over 600 people showed up to honor five individuals who exemplify what the organization stands for with the federation’s awards for 2016; City Councilmember Mark Treyger, Ana Oliveira, Tony Utano and Manni and Dayna Scarso, as well as to applaud FIAO’s scholarship winners.

Treyger received the Distinguished Elected Official Award. Jack Spatola, chairperson of the board for FIAO, commended Treyger for his, “Ability to cut through the red tape and his unbelievable dedication to victims of Hurricane Sandy that needed help and funding.”

Treyger is a first generation Ukrainian-American raised in Bensonhurst, and an alum of Murrow High School and Brooklyn College, where he earned his Bachelor’s and two Master’s degrees. His enthusiasm towards community service has been prevalent for years, even before he attained elected office, from helping to expose tax cheats to fighting for infrastructure development of South Brooklyn.

Oliveira, Investors Bank’s senior vice president and regional manager, was given the Distinguished Businesswoman Award. With two decades of experience in investment banking, Oliveira also dedicates her free time to being a community leader and volunteer, serving as a member of both the Brooklyn and Queens Chambers of Commerce, and a board member of the Queens Theatre, the New Jersey City University Foundation and the Portuguese American Chamber of Commerce, as well as the treasurer of the Portuguese American Congress. She focuses her life around her professional career and the community that surrounds her.

The winner of FIAO’s Distinguished Italian-American Award was Utano, a first generation Italian-American born and raised in Bensonhurst, and the vice-president of TWU 100. Utano started out working in dangerous conditions with the New York City Transit Power Department, maintaining power substations and power emergencies related to the third rail, and got himself elected at 19 to an entry level position within TWU 100 because he felt change needed to happen within the union. Over 30 years later, he is the longest serving elected officer in TWU 100. In recent years, Utano has worked to give the 3,000 forgotten transit workers who responded at Ground Zero the recognition they deserve.

Lastly, the winners of the 2016 Humanitarian Awards are a couple who have faced a tremendous setback in their life and have only fought back more ferociously. The Scarsos, mother and father to Pietro, started their non-profit organization Pietro’s Fight to help their son, after he was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), and raise awareness and funds for others dealing with the disease.

“They aren’t just doing this for their son but all children out there with DMD,” Spatola stressed. The Scarsos have rallied a community behind their cause and created waves in the field of research for DMD.

“Truly, without a question, this was one of the finest group of individuals in terms of quality that I thought exemplified what the federation stands for, and that is helping others,” Spatola added.

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