2021 Italian American Volunteer of the Year Winner and Nominees
Joannie Velotta Flynn
Joannie Velotta Flynn has exhibited a true Italian volunteer spirit through her unconditional love of family and service to others. Her work ethic and upbeat positive attitude in her 50+ years of being in the Tupperware family inspired business owners on her team as well as those she shared her business expertise with. Joannie belongs to numerous Italian organizations and supports them all with service on boards and volunteering. Every person who knows Joannie can attest to her “can do” spirit and infectious smile. Joannie served as Secretary for IABA for 4 years, President of Il Circolo Italiano for 8 years, Secretary of State of Colorado Sons of Italy for 2 years and President of Ladies Auxiliary Potenza Lodge for 2 years. Joannie also volunteered at a local food bank weekly for 2 years. Joannie has supported Caruso Family Charities for years and continues to do so. She is active at Mt. Carmel Church as Eucharist minister and is in the pastoral council as well as a member of Altar and Rosary Society. Joannie recently became a member of Dante Alighieri Society and doesn’t appear to be slowing down at all in her service and support of the Italian community.
Paul Garrimone was born in 1952 and raised in North Denver. He went to public schools and was an altar boy at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. Paul worked in the transportation business 47 years as manager of one of the largest trucking firms in the U.S. He married his high school sweetheart Danette in 1971 and just celebrated 50 years of marriage. Paul and Danette have three children, Shelly, Paulette and Paul plus three grandchildren Breanna, Benton and Berkeley. Paul retired in 2011 and joined Mt. Carmel Men’s Club helping with many events for the church. Paul has received notable awards from the Morra Society of Denver, Angelo Noce Award, for dedication to the Italian community, and the Silver Cross Award from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church for dedication to the community. Currently, Paul serves as chair of the Mt. Carmel Bazaar committee, is on the Mt. Carmel finance committee, and is president of the Men’s Club at Mt. Carmel. Paul has also helped with Saint Rocco’s Feast and has worked with numerous Italian and North Denver organizations and other churches to support their projects.
Sal Siraguse spent over 20 years in the restaurant business and the last 25+ years in the dairy business. Sal has been a member of the Italians of America for over 10 years. As part of the IOA, Sal has been involved in numerous charitable events including the Red Lion Run Car Show, which benefits Food For Thought. Sal also volunteers at Food For Thought on Friday mornings, preparing food bags for school children who need food for the weekends. As Secretary of the Mount Carmel Mens Club, Sal has volunteered for several years at the Mount Carmel Annual Bazaar, as well as many other events that benefit the church. Together with his wife Rita DeFrange, they have run the Pizza Fritta Booth at the Feast of St. Rocco at the Potenza Lodge for the past 7 years. As a member of Fiori ‘d’Italia Club, Sal is the co-founder of the Annual Busnardo Memorial Bocce Tournament. The tournament has raised thousands of dollars for Jerry Caruso’s Charity. Currently Sal is president of the Sons and Daughters of Italy. The Annual SOI Car Show also benefits Caruso Family Charities. The Sons and Daughters of Italy runs several events all year and they are regular contributors to the Alzheimer’s Association, Cooley’s Anemia Foundation and The Doug Flutie Foundation for Autism, among other charities.
Anna Vann has supported the Italian community with her numerous volunteer efforts for many years. Anna has worked in the Pizza Fritta booth at St. Rocco’s supporting the Potenza Lodge as well as baking for several bake sales this year. In Anna’s position with the Trentini, she coordinates the “All Italian Club Picnic” every summer - with the Polenta (that she and the members cook “on-site” and is the center attraction). Recently, Anna has reworked the Hall Rental Program at the Sons & Daughters of Italy on her own time, volunteering to help streamline and offer improvement wherever needed. Anna not only gives of her time, she gives from her business. She has pulled together some wonderful travel packages that were donated and raffled off for non-profit and profit events. Anna’s most recent endeavor was in support of Columbus Day with her ideas around “small plates” for the Sons & Daughters of Italy “Open House”. Her snacks received rave reviews!
2021 Italian American of the Year Winner and Nominees
Gianfranco Marcantonio came to the U.S. from Italy in 1958. He attended Mt. Carmel High School and thanks to a scholarship from the Denver Lodge of the Order of the Sons of Italy in America (OSIA), was able to begin college at Regis University and then go on to CU Boulder. In the late 70s, he was eager to “give back” and became an active member of the Lodge. While in the OSIA, he was the historian, the orator and the vice president. In 1985, Gianfranco was instrumental in establishing the non-profit organization, the Dante Alighieri Society of Denver. There are over 450 Dante Alighieri Society chapters worldwide; their common goal is to promote the understanding and appreciation of Italy’s contributions to the world. The Dante Alighieri Society of Denver, with Gianfranco’s help for the past 36 years, continues to share and promote Italian heritage. The Scholarship Program has awarded over $200,000 in scholarships to college students wishing to study the Italian language and culture in Italy. Gianfranco has served as President of the Dante Alighieri Society, chaired numerous committees, published the monthly newsletter Notiziario, serves as the historian, and plans the Italian movie nights. Over the years, he has also taught the Italian language in the college system.
Mary Buzelli-White is the Co-President of the Altar and Rosary Society, as well as a member and volunteer of many Italian organizations in the community. Mary ran a “Glow in the Dark” Bocce Tournament as the Co-President of Altar and Rosary to raise money for young students to go to Catholic schools. Mary has volunteered her time to ensure that Mt. Carmel maintains its status as a historical site, along with maintaining the gardens. Mary is a huge supporter of Mt. Carmel Bazaar which offers the Italian community an event to promote Italian heritage and keep the traditions alive. One of Mary’s biggest contributions is to St. Elizabeth of Hungary. She works with all the Italian organizations to collect coats for the needy and homeless along with serving in a lunch line every Tuesday. Mary exemplifies the Italian American culture of giving back to the community and she continually offers service to others. Mary recently brought together a “retreat” and while planned for Catholics, offers this morning retreat to the community as a whole to promote how the Italians come together to help others.
Jerry Caruso and his wife, Karen, started Caruso Family Charities in 2006 after a trip to Children’s Hospital Colorado more than 20 years ago inspired them to help terminally ill children. After meeting with doctors and nurses, they learned of an immense financial need for underprivileged families who have a sick child. This was all Jerry and Karen needed to hear, and from here, Caruso Family Charities was started! Jerry is also the owner of Caruso Kitchens in Lakewood, CO, which he began in 1983. Jerry’s oldest son, Jared, has begun to take over Caruso Kitchens to allow Jerry to focus his time on Caruso Family Charities. Jerry’s daughter Andrea plays a major role in helping CFC move forward to help as many families as possible. Jerry’s service attitude was instilled in him at an early age from his parents who were always helping anyone who came to their door as well as being very active in the Italian community and Mt. Carmel Church. Jerry is also very active in his community and is a dedicated father and grandfather. Just like his parents, his greatest joy continues to come from helping families in need.
Ernie Marranzino, a retired fireman, has a long history of service and volunteerism to the community in Denver. Ernie belongs to the Denver Optimist Club, Morra Society of Denver, Sons of Italy Lodge, and has served as president of the Mt. Carmel Men’s Club. Ernie’s infectious energy and great ideas revitalized Mt. Carmel church events, increasing the attendance at meetings and events such as the annual bazaar. Ernie was instrumental, along with others, in getting the monthly Prima Domenica mass in Italian started at Mt. Carmel. To this day, the monthly Italian mass held on the first Sunday at 9am is well attended and hosts a breakfast after mass for any who wish to attend. Donations from the Prima Domenica 100+ breakfast guests are donated to the church. Under Ernie’s leadership, the Men’s Club started fundraising events for the church, including bocce and golf tournaments, spaghetti dinners, raffles, and more. They also helped poor people in Denver, hosting events where proceeds went to the poor, Catholic Charities, and other non-profits. Marranzino credits his parents and their Italian values for making him the man he is today and he wants to instill those values in his kids so they’ll carry it on.
2021 IABA Business of the Year Winner and Nominees
Jimmy’s Jersey Street Cafe & Osteria
Jimmy Lambatos started his long career in the hospitality industry in the early 70’s rising from busboy to chef to manager of the Colorado Mine Company where he served Elvis the famous peanut butter/bacon/blueberry sandwich. His first restaurant Footers, which has evolved into Footers Catering, is now owned by his son Anthony. While at Footers, Jimmy came up with a concept for a toasted submarine sandwich and from that Quizno’s was born. The first Quizno’s shop is still standing today. Jimmy was Pat Bowlen’s personal chef in his box at Mile High for 20 years, and traveled with the Broncos team on many occasions. Jimmy has a great love for all things Italian, and has traveled to the many grape growing regions in Italy. Past owner of Bauer’s downtown and Ivy at the Glenn, Jimmy’s new venture, Jimmy’s Jersey St. Cafe and Osteria, opened in June, 2020 and has become a favorite spot for locals where every meal ends with Jimmy’s signature mini ice cream cone. His love for the restaurant industry and the opportunity to serve the finest Italian food drives him every day. Jimmy’s talent is his ability to create “a great experience” for every customer. Jimmy was introduced to the IABA through his new wife, Terry, and shares his “go to spirit” whenever a meal, or donation is needed. His generosity spills over to many charitable organizations, but the “kids” hold his heart.
Bonacquisti Wine Company
Owner and winemaker Paul Bonacquisti is a second generation Italian American, born in Denver, Colo. Bonacquisti’s knowledge of and passion for winemaking stemmed from his father, an entrepreneur and jeweler who was a passionate winemaker on the side. Bonacquisti spent years working alongside his father, assisting him with making wine in their small garage at the house where he grew up in Brighton, Colo. In 2006, he earned his Level 2 Sommelier certification from the International Wine Guild. From there, he merged them with his own personal, more modern approach with the art of winemaking to create and customize his own wine blends. His extensive experience combined with his wine education is what has catapulted the recognition of his wines, earning international and regional accolades and awards including several bronze, silver and gold medal awarded-wines in Colorado Wine Governor’s Cup Competition. Paul creates wine in various styles to give guests new ways to experience wine. The winery supports local artists with original works for sale on the winery’s walls, and offers numerous classes and live events.
Apexd by Design
Standing at a towering height of 4’ 11”, Tish Gance has always had a unique perspective on the world. She was a puzzle prodigy by the age of 4, learned chess at 5, performed her first oil change (solo) on a car at 8, full brake job by 12, and had rebuilt a carburetor from start to finish at 15. In High School as “queen of the geeks” she ran the chess club and took state her junior and senior years in team and individual competition. Tish used her chess skill to hustle extra money while she put herself through college to get her degree in graphic design. While she was working in the printing industry, Tish watched many epic failures of customers doing their own marketing, and decided to do something about the lack of common sense in design and small business, so in 2015 she started Apexd by Design, her own Brand Experience Design business. Her love of cars and games has been as steady as the spunky, straight-forward business approach she’s known for. She owns 3 vintage Fiats which she does most of the work on herself, is owned by 5 cats, and met her boyforever Logan at her weekly board gaming group.