They may not have four walls and a roof in their namesake anymore, but the benevolence of the Italo Canadese membership of Trail will carry on no matter where they break bread in the future.
With the sale of their building in the Trail Gulch a done-deal, the SMS Italo Canadese – or Societa Mutuo Soccorso Italo Canadese – has donated $50,000 of those proceeds to the hospital in Trail.
Societa Mutuo Soccorso (SMS) Italo Canadese translates to Society of Mutual Aid or Mutual Benefit for Italian Canadians. So their alms to the ICU/HART Project at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH) adds to the long history of this generous society giving back to the community of Trail.
With an aging membership, half of which joined 35 or more years ago, SMS Italo Canadese executive and members had been considering selling the building for a couple of years.
“The membership was older, and it was getting hard to keep up with maintenance and the associated costs – insurance, permits, utilities, taxes,” Lina Horan, secretary, told the Trail Times. “We weren’t having many events in our main hall. Gone are the days of the big banquets and dances!”
Meetings were also off the table once the pandemic arrived, so Horan says it was a good time to put the Rossland Avenue hall on the market.
“We thought it would take awhile to sell the building,” she explained. “As you know, many buildings in Trail have been for sale for literally years.”
This wasn’t what happened with the Italo Canadese building, however.
After signing on with a realtor in July, the society was pleasantly surprised to secure a buyer only two months later.
With building costs no longer hanging over their heads, the first fitting cause the membership committed to was the betterment of local health care for all.
“The SMS Italo Canadese started out as a ‘benevolent’ society. You remember those stories,” Horan said. “People arriving from the ‘old country’ and being able to grow and prosper because of the help of those who came before.
“The hospital is certainly one of those services that supports everyone in our community. We are happy to help in any way we can to support that mission, and the KBRH Health Foundation has always been front and centre for our donations,” Horan shared.
“As one member aptly states, ‘We all go there eventually.'”
Besides $50,000 given to the hospital, the society made a $10,000 donation to the Greater Trail Hospice Society last week, and this week is gifting $5,000 to Sanctuary Pre-teen Centre and $5,000 to the Trail Youth Centre.
With no building to hold the 75 or-so members, the Times asked where they will meet once the pandemic is over.
“Our members love to have dinner meetings. It gives them the opportunity to do ‘that Italian thing’ about eating and laughing and sharing,” Horan said. “We’ll hopefully be able to use the Warfield Hall as it has easy access and an outdoor area as well as the hall. A benefit when the weather doesn’t cooperate.”
Societa Mutuo Soccorso Italo Canadese was officially registered as a fraternal mutual benefit society on March 26, 1934.
Vincenzo DeGiorgio was the first president. The objectives of the society were to aid members in their time of need and to celebrate Italian heritage and culture.
In 1936 the women’s society, Sorelle Italo Canadese was formed and headed by Maria Dominici Tweed. Through subscriptions, members paid into a mutual benefit fund to be drawn on when medical needs arose.
Times have vastly improved and universal medicare has changed the nature of the mutual benefit.
As the objectives of the two societies were essentially the same; the men’s and women’s societies decided to amalgamate.
On May 26, 2003, the SMS Italo Canadese officially became an integrated and equal society, being one of the first in Canada to amalgamate.
SMS Italo Canadese was also one of the first service clubs to join Trail Communities in Bloom. Members returned to the Silver City Days a few years ago serving their specialty pasta at the Sidewalk Cafe. Pre-pandemic, they also visited Columbia View Lodge every month, bringing Italian baking and serving tea and coffee to residents.
Through the years the society participated in local events to raise funds for charities such as: KBRH; BC Children’s Hospital; BC Cancer Society; Trail food banks; Crowe scholarships; Canadian Red Cross; Trail Family Monument; Sanctuary Pre-Teen Centre; and they sponsor the Trail Ambassador Program.
“Prior to the pandemic, our members have enjoyed Flag Day Teas, hosting the SwingSations dances, participating in our socials, like the Castagnata (roasted chestnuts) evenings, bocce, picnics and pizza night. Children, parents and grandparents alike enjoy the annual Christmas party,” Horan added. “A few years ago we joined together on a February Family Day and told our ‘arrival stories’ and marked our hometowns on a map of Italy. The stories were amazing.”