A venerable Southwest Brooklyn community organization that recently celebrated its 90th anniversary has turned to an experienced hand to guide it over the next two years.
The nominating committee of the Dyker Heights Civic Association has tapped current President Fran Vella-Marrone to serve another term as the organization’s leader. Vella-Marrone, whose day job for the past few years has been that of a top aide to U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, a Republican representing Staten Island and southwest Brooklyn, has been a member of the civic association since the early 1980s.
Vella-Marrone boasts years of experience as a leader in Southwest Brooklyn’s civic and political worlds. A longtime member of the Kings County Conservative Party, she was recently elected to serve as the party’s chairperson.
In addition to Vella-Marrone, the civic association’s nominating committee’s slate of officers includes Gussie Sichenze as vice president, JoAnn DiMeglio as corresponding secretary, Gloria Calicchia as recording secretary and Sandy Vallas as treasurer.
The nominations were announced at THE civic association meeting on Nov. 13. The organization will vote at its next meeting on Dec. 14; Vella-Marrone and the other candidates are expected to breeze to victory.
The civic association, which was founded in 1928, hosted a dinner last month at Sirico Caterers on 13th Avenue to celebrate its 90th anniversary. “The dinner was very, very successful. We want to thank all of you for your support,” Vella-Marrone told members at the meeting. “And to those of you who didn’t come to the dinner, you missed a good time!” she joked.
The mission of the Dyker Heights Civic Association is to serve as a voice for neighborhood residents and to provide a platform to address community concerns, according to the group’s website, www.dykerheightscivicassociation.com.
The organization’s motto is “Democracy in Action.”
The civic association’s activities are funded solely through membership dues and from the monies generated by the annual dinner, according to Vella-Marrone.
The civic association meets once a month, usually at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church Hall at 1072 80th St. Over the years, the meetings have featured guest speakers from city and state agencies, elected officials offering updates on legislation they have introduced, and debates between candidates for public office.
Over the years, the civic association has led fights to save the Dyker Heights Post Office, which was threatened with closure in the mid-1980s and prevent a shopping mall from being built over a railroad cut on Eighth Avenue and 62nd Street.
At Vella-Marrone’s urging, the group has expanded its mission in recent years to include charitable endeavors. The civic association teams up with the 68th Precinct Community Council to sponsor an annual Christmas toy drive.
For many years, the civic association sponsored the Dyker Heights Military Postage Fund, a project that provided free postage to military families seeking to mail packages to their loved ones on active duty in war zones.
That charitable spirit was on display at the Nov. 13 meeting, where Vella-Marrone presented a check to the Archbishop John Hughes Council of the Knights of Columbus, a service organization affiliated with the Catholic Church. The council’s hall is located at 1305 86th St. in Dyker Heights.
“People don’t know enough about what they do,” Vella-Marrone said.
Agostino Iallonardo, the grand knight of the council, who accepted the donation from Vella-Marrone, said the council hosts toy drives, food drives and coat drives, donates turkeys to needy families for Thanksgiving, sends snacks to troops serving overseas, and sponsors dances for the Guild for Exceptional Children, an organization that serves the developmentally disabled.
“In September, we start brainstorming what we are going to do,” Iallonardo said.
The knights also provide support and assistance to the Sisters of Life, an order of Catholic nuns founded by the late John Cardinal O’Connor, head of the Archdiocese of New York in the 1990s.
“We have a very strong relationship with them,” said Iallonardo, adding that the knights admire the sisters for their work with domestic violence victims.