Belmont council honors former executive director

Marius Jipa, Joe Marano, Elisa Maiorino, and Rrustem Celaj, staff members of the Council of Belmont Organization, Inc., honor the memory of former executive director Joseph Zinzi by continuing his mission to serve Bronxites. Photo by Amanda Marinaccio

While continuing a mission to serve residents of the Bronx, members of the Council of Belmont Organization, Inc., located 630 E. 187th Street, took the time on March 26 for a memorial service to honor their former executive director.

Joseph Zinzi, who passed away on March 26, 2007 at age 66, was a leader in the Little Italy section of the Bronx, never taking credit, but always willing to help anyone who crossed his path or was down on their luck.

“He was a good guy who always put his heart and soul into everything,” said his brother, Anthony Zinzi. “He was very, very intelligent and a natural born leader who helped people all over the country.”

After two years under new leadership, COBO still maintains the service and quality Zinzi made sure the organization was known for, serving over 5,000 people each year, never turning a person away.

“There are so many good things to say about Joe, and I had the honor or working with him for over 30 years. We try to keep and continue his legacy,” said Rrustem Celaj, community counselor at COBO. “He was a man who would stretch his hand to anyone who needed help and a man of his word.”

With a staff that can communicate in seven languages, the organization has the capability to assist any Bronxite looking for help or information with Medicaid, Medicare, social security insurance, rent and housing issues. At COBO, all information and forms are free, providing forms and services other organizations charge for.

The organization also sponsors the Mount Carmel Senior Center, conducting valuable activities to keep seniors active and social, as well as provide a hot gourmet Italian lunch each day.

“We help anyone we can. We communicate with every agency possible and facilitate the communication between the agencies and the community,” said Joe Marano, executive deputy director. “To date, we have never had a landlord or agency not respond to our request. I think it is because of the approach we have, the objective is to help, not aggravate the situation.”

COBO is able to maintain the valuable service through these difficult economic times with help through City Council Funding from Councilman Joel Rivera and assistance for the seniors from the Bethex Federal Credit Union.

“One thing Joe Zinzi always taught me was to be straight forward and up front,” said Elisa Maiorino, COBO community counselor. “On my behalf he was an inspiration and encouraged me so much and gave me the confidence I needed for this job.”

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