Derby-Puglianello Sister City Initative Fund

Est. 2007 to benefit Derby residents and students of Italian descent to trace their roots, travel to Italy, and immerse themselves in modern day Italian culture.

Little did the first immigrants from Puglianello, Italy know that, when they came to Derby more than 100 years ago, many of their descendants - grandchildren, great-grandchildren - would return to Italy for a "cultural experience". But that is what has happened, thanks to a special program initiated by former Derby Mayor Marc Garofalo, entitled The Derby Sister City Program. Money that was initially raised to help send a group of 50 Derby residents to their sister city - Puglianello - has grown and now has become the "Derby Sister City Fund" at the Valley Community Foundation.

"The purpose of the Fund is to help Derby residents and students of Italian descent to trace their roots, to see how people are currently living in Italy, and to immerse themselves in the culture there," said Garofalo. "It's more than just a scholarship program - it gives students a direct opportunity to experience for themselves the Italian lifestyle on a daily basis."

The program began in February, 2001, when then-Mayor Garofalo was invited to Puglianello by that community's Mayor Tonino Bartone, to visit the area, and see the town, which is in the Province of Benevento and Region of Campania, about 45 miles northeast of Naples. It was then that the two Mayors formulated the idea of developing the Sister City project.

"It was truly about a cultural and an economic exchange," said Garofalo. "There had been several waves of immigration to Derby from the region beginning in 1902, with people coming every few years before World War II. Again in the early 1950s, and in the mid '60s and '70s, there were large waves of people joining their families and friends here. We wanted to provide an opportunity for their descendants to return to Puglianello, to learn what was happening and how it has affected their lives even today."

The first grants from the Fund were distributed in 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the first trip to Italy.

"We chose VCF to work with us to create this Fund, because they are an efficient and effective Valley organization," said Garofalo. "This is our way to recognize the many opportunities the Valley has given the Italian Community in Derby. It's also the chance for us to give back to others so that they may continue to celebrate their Italian culture and ethnicity for years to come."