ROTTERDAM Italian kinship is swelling locally as one group celebrates reaching a membership milestone.
The Rotterdam Sons of Italy reached 500 members on Monday, April 16, as the group welcomed its newest members during its regular meeting. In less than four years, the Gabriele D’Annunzio Lodge No. 321 has doubled its membership from about 225 in 2008. The lodge also has become the second largest in the state, meaning it will have 20 delegates to vote during organization elections.
Lodge President Louis Fazzone said membership was sliding while the group was at its former location on Liberty Street in Schenectady before moving to Hamburg Street in Rotterdam. In September 2007, it opened its doors at the current facility, which was formerly Heritage Baptist Church.
Upon opening in Rotterdam in 2007, he said the lodge had 170 members. Getting its membership level to 500 became Fazzone’s goal upon starting his second term as president in 2012.
“When we were down at Liberty Street our membership was sliding pretty bad,” Fazzone said. “Fortunately, here the membership started to pick up and the last three, two, four years it has been accelerating.”
At the close of 2007, the lodge had 208 members and the number just continued to rise, with the group holding 224 members in 2008. The following year in 2009, there was a significant increase to 366 members. In 2010, the group reached 423 and then 460 in 2011.
“Some people might say we have outgrown our place here, but just because we have 500 members that doesn’t mean they’re going to be all here (at the same time),” Fazzone said.
Achieving the milestone during difficult economic times is “very good,” he said. If the economy was better, he said more people would be joining.
“To get this many members at this time in history is a pretty tall accomplishment,” Fazzone said.