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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Celebrating Italian-American Heritage Month

I recently introduced a Senate Resolution recognizing October 2015 as “Italian-American Heritage Month” in Pennsylvania.  The famous explorer, Christopher Columbus, was born in Genoa, Italy, around 1451.  As we have all learned in school, Mr. Columbus was determined to find a quicker route west from Europe to Asia and embarked on what would end up being four trips across the Atlantic Ocean starting in 1492. During his voyage, Christopher accidently stumbled upon the Americas which resulted in centuries of explorations on the American continent.

While Italians had always been a part of American history, it wasn’t until the 1820’s that Italian immigrants began moving to the United States in sizable numbers.  These relatively unskilled individuals are accredited with helping fuel a booming industrial economy by providing labor for American factories and mines and assisted with building our roads, dams, tunnels and other major infrastructure over the years. 

As Italian-Americans began settling in the major cities across the United States, they often faced religious and ethnic discrimination which occasionally led to brutal violence.  For this reason, Italian-Americans started celebrating the life and accomplishments of Christopher Columbus as a way for these citizens of Italian decent to be accepted by the mainstream.

The first state to officially observe Columbus Day was Colorado in 1906.  Instrumental in the creation of the holiday was Angelo Noce, an Italian immigrant who was the founder of Colorado’s first Italian newspaper, La Stella.  Within five years of Colorado commemorating the holiday, 14 other states joined in celebrating Columbus Day.  However, it wasn’t until 1937 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration that Columbus Day became a federal holiday.  And in 1971, Congress declared the holiday would take place on the second Monday in October.   

Today we credit Christopher Columbus with Italian immigration to the New World and what is now Pennsylvania.  Currently, there are over 17 million Americans of Italian heritage in the United States, with more 1.4 million residing in Pennsylvania.  I am especially proud to say that Western Pennsylvania has a significant Italian-American population that is rich in culture. Neighboring Bloomfield is considered “Pittsburgh’s Little Italy” because of its historically Italian-American population and I have been honored to take part by marching in this neighborhood’s annual Columbus Day parade. 

As you may know, the Italian-Americans have become one of the Commonwealth’s most influential ethnic groups with deep roots in religion, politics, the arts, science, law and economic and social institutions to preserve their heritage.  A noteworthy dignitary includes the Italian-American Jim Delligatti, owner of several McDonald’s franchises in the Pittsburgh region, who invented one of the world’s most popular sandwiches in the late 1960’s:  the Big Mac.  Mr. Peanut and the Planters Peanut Company was also created by Italian immigrants in 1887 in Pennsylvania.    

As a way to celebrate Italian Heritage Month and Columbus Day, I encourage constituents to go and visit the authentic replicas of two of the three ships in Christopher Columbus’ fleet, the Nina and Pinta, which are docked at Station Square until October 12.  This is the third time these “sailing museums” will visit Pittsburgh and are expected to draw large crowds once again. And as an Italian-American myself, I commend the early immigrants for their important role in our state’s history and for future generations to come. 

Offices Closed

In observance of the Columbus Day holiday, all Senate offices will be closed on Monday, October 12.  My office will re-open on Tuesday, October 13 as scheduled.

Absentee Ballot Deadline

Vote PA Vote PA Any voter who needs an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 General Election must complete and return the application to the Allegheny County Division of Elections no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, October 27.  The Division of Elections is located in the County Office Building, 542 Forbes Avenue, Room 604 in downtown Pittsburgh.  You can download and print an application by clicking here or you can pick one up at any of my district offices. 

Anyone voting by absentee ballot will be required to provide a PA Driver’s License number, PennDOT ID number, or last four digits of your Social Security number.  If you do not possess any of the aforementioned items, a copy of an acceptable ID must be provided with the application.  For any questions related to registering to vote, please contact 412-350-4510 or visit

Fire Company/Volunteer Ambulance Grants

Fire Commission The State Fire Commissioner I want to remind all volunteer fire companies and ambulance services organizations that the Pennsylvania Office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC) has opened the online grant application process for the 2015-16 Fire Company and Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant Program (FCVASGP).  Applications are due to the OSFC no later than October 22 at 4 p.m.  No applications will be accepted after October 22.

All fire companies, volunteer ambulance services, and volunteer rescue squads are eligible to apply for grant funding.  Eligible projects include:  construction and/or renovation of the fire company’s or ambulance service’s facility; the purchase or repair of firefighting, ambulance or rescue equipment; the purchase or repair of fixtures and furnishings necessary to maintain or improve the capability of the company to provide services; debt reduction associated with the facility or equipment; or the training and certification of members.

Grant applications are available online by clicking here.  For any organization that submitted a grant application last year, you still must create a new User ID and Password in order to access the 2015-16 grant application.

Reminder – Office Hours & Locations

As we head into fall I want to remind everyone of my district office hours and locations including my satellite and mobile offices.  Below is a listing of my office locations and hours.  If you need assistance on any state matter please feel free to visit any of these locations.

932 Brookline Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA  15226
Phone – 412-344-2551
Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Beechview (satellite office)
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA  15216
Phone – 412-343-2080
Tuesdays, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plaza, 500 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp., PA  15136
Phone – 412-331-1208
Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Northside (mobile office)
Carnegie Library – Allegheny branch
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA  15212
Wednesdays – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Strip District (mobile office)
Pittsburgh Public Market
2401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA  15222
Thursdays – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast CancerOctober is Breast Cancer Awareness Month all across the country and I want women to be aware of the resources offered by the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition (PBCC).  The PBCC was formed in 1993 by a dedicated, active, and effective group of breast cancer survivors who had one common mission – to find a cure for breast cancer.  The organization has a network across Pennsylvania that exists to provide help and support to women diagnosed with breast cancer and their families.

In addition to legislative advocacy and educational programming, the PBCC helps direct low and moderate income women who are uninsured to get free treatment through the Pennsylvania Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Program.  The PBCC also offers support groups, raises needed funds for research, and much more.  You can visit them online at to learn more about the organization and the many ways they can help.  If you are in need of treatment, I also encourage you to call the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Healthy Woman Program at 1-800-215-7494.

Did You Know…

Did you know in 2015, an estimated 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States, along with 60,290 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer?

Saw Mill Run Watershed Association Clean Up Event

Saw Mill Run Watershed AssociationThe Saw Mill Run Watershed Association is hosting its Fall Stream Sweep in Seldom Seem Greenway this Saturday, October 10.  The Seldom Seem Greenway is 90 acres of undeveloped forest along Route 51 and the Saw Mill Run stream flows through this setting.  Every time it rains, trash and debris from the upper watershed communities washes into the stream, depositing along the banks in Seldom Seen.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the Fall Stream Sweep can join the Association and other volunteers at the entrance to Seldom Seen along Route 51, just past the City of Pittsburgh salt dome around 9 a.m.  Gloves, safety vests, and trash bags will be provided.  Please wear long pants, shirts with long sleeves and sturdy boots or shoes.  Feel free to stop early for bagels and coffee.  The event runs from 9 a.m. – noon.

turnpikeFontana Fact

Last week, on October 1, marked the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Known as “America’s First Superhighway,” the Turnpike originally ran 160 miles between Irwin and Carlisle.  It received nationwide acclaim in 1940 as an engineering marvel as the Turnpike actually established the national standard for superhighway design and construction more than 16 years before the first United States interstate highway.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

  Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Fax: 412-344-3400
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol
Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plaza
524 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Fax: 412-331-2079
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
  Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Phone: 412-343-2080
Fax: 412-343-2418
Tuesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Strip District (Mobile Office)
Pittsburgh Public Market
2401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Thursdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library
Allegheny Branch
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Saw Mill Run Watershed Association