Working on behalf of Italian Home for Children has been a true family affair for many Boston-area families.
Take James and Robert Tambone. For the past 18 months, James has been one of the members of Italian Home’s Young Leaders Board. “We are a growing group of people in our 20s and 30s looking to raise money for the kids,” says James.
Recently the Young Leaders Board organized an event to put together Valentine’s Day baskets and cards for the children. Members organize days to bring together their friends and professional networks to do landscaping around the Jamaica Plain campus. At Christmas they provide toys for the children. The group is planning a big event at the Liberty Hotel in Boston to raise money later this year.
James and his sisters were introduced to Italian Home by their father, Robert. Now in his 60s, Robert first became involved when he was about the same age as James. Robert wanted to serve as a “big brother” to a young boy in need. Staff at Italian Home introduced him to Bobby, a nine-year old boy who Robert befriended and who became like a member of the family.
“Bobby had a sister at the Home too,” Robert recalls. “The plan was to separate Bobby and his sister to different homes in hopes that it would be easier for them to be adopted. Bobby was never adopted, but he came home with me for all the holidays and we had him on the weekends. Ultimately he got married and had four kids – three of whom joined the military, one each in the Army, Air Force, and Marines.”
“Bobby lived in one of my apartment complexes,” says Robert, who owns a real estate development and property management firm. “Ultimately he bought a home, and he did very well for himself.”
Like James, Robert also ran successful fundraisers for the Home, “at the old Faces discotheque on Route 2 in the 1970s,” he chuckles. “I invited the board members to come, and they had a pretty good time.”
Ultimately Robert was invited to become a board member. “I was the youngest one on the board – everyone else was 2 or 3 times my age. I was intimidated,” he admits.
But his own father offered some sage advice about how to handle the experience, which Robert never forgot. “He told me to just listen, see who is saying what, who is respected, and learn from that…which is exactly what I did.”
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For Joe Markey, the family connection is even more longstanding and nearly as old as the organization itself. His great -grandfather was one of the first members of the Italian Home’s board and served in that role for over 40 years.
“My great-grandfather, Ernest Martini, emigrated to the United States and lived on Hanover Street in the North End,” says Joe. He worked for the City of Boston as the Director of Americanization and later as the Chief Inspector of the Industrial Accident Board, which was like the worker’s compensation board today. Ernest also ran Martini’s Cigars, which is Martini’s News today and is still on Hanover Street.
Ernest Martini was very involved in the early fundraising efforts for Italian Home, “even sending President Kennedy’s father, Joe Kennedy, a letter asking for a donation,” Joe says with a laugh.
Ernest’s daughter (Joe’s grandmother) Amanda Martini Markey took up the mantle of working with Italian Home when she became an adult, and now Joe has been following in the her footsteps for the past three years.
Joe works with the Middlesex Sheriff’s Department as Chairman of the Auxiliary Sheriff’s Advisory Board. There are more than 700 auxiliary sheriffs in Middlesex County – volunteers who help with community efforts like needle exchange programs and senior citizens outreach. One of the projects this group now does each year is collect gifts for children at Italian Home for the holidays, and raise money to support special projects for the children.
Joe is also president of the St. Michael’s Law Enforcement Society, a non-profit organization that seeks to promote harmony between law enforcement departments and the communities they serve. Last summer, the Society cooked a barbecue for more than 200 children and staff members at the JP campus.
“It’s a big deal for a non-profit to last 100 years,” says Joe proudly. “Not a lot of organizations can accomplish that. I’m proud that I and my family have been part of that tradition of helping children at the Home who are less fortunate almost from the beginning.”