West Albany
Italian Benevolent Society

Phone

  (518) 482-4731
Address  

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About WAIBS & Our History

WAIBS is a society dedicated to our heritage, our country and the well being our community and neighbors. It has always been our desire to extend our helping hand to those who are less fortunate. Our society has been in existence since 1909. We have opened our doors and hearts to our community. We offer a complete banquet facility with professional service and elegant décor.

Brief History of the West Albany Italian Benevolent Society

This society was founded in 1909 by a group of recently arrived Italians residing in the area around our hall and from a section along the Albany-Schenectady Road. Until the end of World War II, the membership was concentrated in these two locations.

Like most immigrants, they arrived in the United States with very few possessions and many owed for their passage. They saw a need for financial assistance during illness; they recognized a moral obligation to assist their neighbors and they devoutly believed that all should have a decent Christian burial.

The Society as formed, therefore, provided modest financial aid during illness, a small sum upon the decease of a member for funeral expenses and charity for its members whose needs exceeded the normal aid.

Today, various benefits, insurance’s and institutions exist for the above purposes. That the Society still exists and is growing stronger is evidence that it has grown to be a Christian community organized to preserve a common heritage and the friendships that resulted form the efforts of a courageous group of Italians establishing a home in a New World.

The first president was Antonio Piombino who served as president until 1944. Under his leadership, a relatively stable membership was maintained. The Society at first had no regular meeting hall, and meetings were held in the homes of members. Then Audi’s Hall became available and was used as a meeting place for many years.

About 1924, a committee was formed to stage a celebration for Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16 and 17. The entire community joined the Society in assisting the committee. A band acquired a success of its own and played at other celebrations in Albany, Mechanicville, Troy and Watervliet.

Until the advent of World War II, the celebration was a major holiday for the members and the community. The Church and streets were decorated and provided a festive setting for listening to the band concert, purchasing delicacies at street stands and visiting with the many friends who gathered for this occasion. The celebration was climaxed with gala fireworks, which drew thousands of people and was considered one of the finest displays available at the time. The feast is still remembered with a religious observance sponsored by the Ladies of Mount Carmel Society.

At the time, a large number of the second-generation members joined. With their example and the efforts of a membership drive, the Society was revitalized with a group of younger members. The formation of the Society’s Bowling League in 1945 provided both a social group and an activity, which attracted new and younger members.

The need was recognized for a larger and more permanent meeting place. An annual clambake was inaugurated and plans were initiated to raise funds for this building. The by-laws were translated and the meeting was conducted mostly in English.

Construction of the new building was begun in 1950. The initial success was in a very large measure due to untiring efforts of special members. Bonds subscribed to by its members financed the building. It is noted with pride that no outside financial assistance was needed.

The Chairman of the Building Committee had designed and supervised the construction of the building, was elected President in 1954. During his term of office, the mortgage was burned and although the building was paid for, it was no longer adequate.

The Board of Directors guided the planning the financing of the additions and remodeling of the Society Hall, which were completed in 1959, in time for the celebration of the Society’s Fiftieth Anniversary.

Between 1959 and 1961, the members’ room was completed with a television, furniture and a pool table to occupy the members time.

In the years that passed, the Board of Directors performed all of their duties, and took care of the catering for the parties. In November of 1962, a House Committee was formed to help ease the burden of the Board of Directors. This committee’s sole purpose was to run the Society bar, and banquet business. The first House Committee Chairman under the new by-laws.

The property at the 54 Exchange Street was purchased. Although the property at 52 Exchanged Street was also available, we could not see our way clear to purchase it, and the Board of Directors decided to make it their next venture.

The Ladies of Mt. Carmel Society asked the Society to run the Feast of Mt. Carmel. In doing so, the Society moved the Feast from the church up to the club lot where there was more room to carry out the activities. The annual clambake also flourished there.

The property at 52 Exchange Street was bought and the building demolished leaving the club lot free and clear for parking as it is today.

The annual clambake and the Feast of Mt. Carmel were still very successful as the years went by.

The outside garage was build to store the many items that were accumulating in the club’s building. Both sides of the club building were faced with brick and the building was finally completed.

In 1975, a Building Committee was appointed to work with the Board of Directors to have a complete renovation of the upstairs banquet house. This venture was sorely needed and the outcome was great. December of 1975 it was decided to purchase a parcel of land in the back of the club from the Tobin Packing Co. This was voted on and passed, giving the Society more space for future plans.

The Society and other Italian organizations in the outlying districts joined together and formed the Italian Cultural Foundation in 1975.

In 1976, members decided to work together on a total renovation of the downstairs bar area and member’s rooms. This was completed within the year.

In 1983 an outside foyer was erected in the main entrance in the front of the building. This foyer was necessary and it adds comfort to people upon entering the building.

Today the Society is still a nucleus for the gathering for friends and families for various activities. Along with meeting in the Halls’ bar, many dances and social events are held throughout the year.

Our bowling league, city league team and a members’ recreation room round out the program of membership activities. It is now 1984. Twenty-five years have passed since we celebrated our 50th Anniversary. We are now in our 75th-year. Gone are many of our old timers who were the backbone of the Society. Since 1959 their places have been filled by the same kind of people, a “rub off” if you will, of men dedicated to the well being of the organization.

Sports were always a part of our good times. We had an I.B.S. Softball team. This team always had a good record, as they placed against other local fraternal organizations. We also had our own bowling league and a City League team. We also utilized the member’s recreation room for various activities, including shooting pool, and of course we continued to enjoy our number one sport – Bocce!

As we approached 1988 it was time for further expansion of our facilities. A new lounge was added to our building, along with an exercise/health facility in the lower level. This lounge greatly enhanced the beauty of our building, along with giving us more space to operate and provide for more lounge activities.

Our health facility is used by not only our younger members for there “body building”, but by a host of our senior members. These older members can be seen in the early morning hours pumping away on the exercise bike or utilizing the treadmill. Of course, this is all followed by a steam bath or sauna. It is real invigorating!

The Club membership continued to expand, and now there was a need to recognize the women in our lives. Consequently, the West Albany Italian Benevolent Society Women’s Auxiliary was formed. On March 8, 1989 their Constitution and by-laws were adopted, making them an integral part of our organization.

In 1992 the local Italian Fraternal Organizations, in cooperation with the City of Albany, formed a Columbus Day Parade Committee. We are proud that our members have played such an important role in the undertaking.

This Columbus Day Parade seems to get bigger each year, and gets a lot of publicity and notoriety for our Italian Community. In 1996 they moved the reviewing stand from Washington Avenue in Albany, to Washington Park, where upwards of 5,000 people have gathered for the celebration. Our I.B.S. group is always represented in the parade, as well as having a float. Our food stand has always featured the latest in Italian food such as pizza, sausage and pepper sandwiches, pizza fritta and much more.

Here we go again – its time for further expansion. In 1995 a plot of land adjacent to our parking lot was purchased. On November 8, 1996 an agreement was signed with a local contractor to build a large pavilion in the rear of the club. The Planning Committee decided the pavilion would provide space for 6 bocce courts as well as a large picnic area available for parties and Friday night pizza.

This pavilion has proved to be a boon for the organization. To give you an idea of how these 6 bocce courts are utilized, we start by having a mixed bocce league on Tuesday nights. Wednesday afternoon features our Senior League and Wednesday nights there is a Classic league. Thursday nights we find our Ladies Auxiliary manning the courts followed by our I.B.S. men’s league on Friday nights.

With regard to our picnic area and concession stand, business has been booming on Friday nights. The House Committee is serving pizza, antipasto, chicken wings and clams to a very hungry crowd, and each week we find new faces in this crowd. This really has been a great improvement in the overall activities of our Club.

In 1997 a Dedication Committee was formed. They were looking to establish a permanent remembrance of all of those people affiliated with our Society. They established a Tree of Life, Unity and Fraternity. The “Tree” which was installed in our lounge area, near the entrance, can be described as a bronze trunk with multiple acrylic islands growing outward. Each island contains bronze “leafs” that may be engraved . A campaign was undertaken to solicit our members to purchase a “leaf”, “Acorn” or “foundation stone”. The idea behind purchasing a leaf, for example, is to perpetuate that person’s name, and your feelings for a loved one for time immemorial.

Another phase of the Dedication Committee was to have each of the 6 bocce courts named after a family member or loved one. In each case a bronze plaque has been erected, denoting the family or person who contributed it. These plaques are prominently displayed on a wall within the pavilion, along with a President’s Plaque, naming the entire past President’s of the Society.

Over the years our Club maintained the monument, naming many of our members who served their country during World War II. The monument was located in an inconspicuous space on lower Exchange Street, and was in a state of disrepair. Through their efforts the monument was restored and moved to a new site at the West Albany Pocket Park, along with a World War I monument. On October 18, 1998, both monuments were dedicated in a very impressive ceremony held in the Pocket Park. This consisted of a parade, and speeches by local dignitaries, which was a real tribute to our Club.

We are now moving forward in the millennium, where we expect our Society will continue to prosper, and lead the West Albany community into even greater prominence.

 

WAIBS Officers:

  • John Scaringe Jr, President

  • Tom Sansone, Vice President

  • Joseph Fiorino, Recording Secretary

  • Wayne Spenziero, Treasurer

  • Frank Scaringe, Membership Chairman

  • Joseph Zeccolo, Board of Directors - Chairman

  • Salvatore DiNovo, Board of Directors

  • James Cuoccio, Board of Directors

  • Michael Cea, Board of Directors

  • Lou Iannucci, Board of Directors

  • Vito Zaccardo, Sergeant of the Door

  • Tony Ferracane, Sergeant at Arms

  • Joe Forenzo Jr, Trustee

  • Philip Taranto Trustee

  • Lou Donato Trustee

  • Anthony DiPiazza, Chaplain

Officers are elected on an annual basis. Board of Directors and Trustees are elected for two years. All officers and committee members work on a voluntary basis. The club encourages all members to hold an office.


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WAIBS: 50 Exchange Street
Albany, New York 12205

Ph: (518) 482-4731