Chris Zizza of Framingham will be honored Saturday as a 2013 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
The medals are presented annually by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations to American citizens who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life, according to a press release by C&R Flooring of Westwood, the company of which Zizza is president.
Zizza is one of 97 people to receive the medal this year – chosen from thousands of nominees submitted from all over the country. Past recipients include Ronald Reagan, Frank Sinatra, Martin Scorsese, Brooke Shields, Bill Clinton, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“This is an incredible honor,” Zizza said in a statement. “I am very aware of my roots and I marvel at the bravery it took for my grandparents to come to America for a better life for their family. With every opportunity that comes my way, I say a little thank you to them for bringing us to this great country.”
Through C&R Flooring, Zizza provided materials, labor, and expertise to many charitable projects including the Room to Dream Foundation. He has helped various church organizations and community-based renovations including the Emanuel House in Boston, an inner-city youth center that was renamed the Peter Giambanco Gymnasium in honor of Zizza’s grandfather. C&R also donated all the labor for a house renovation in Medfield, MA featured on reality show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," installing 3,700 square feet of flooring in seven hours.
Zizza also supports several charities including the Catholic Charities of Boston, the Rodman Ride for Kids, the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, and the Friends of the Valley Foundation, which he co-founded. He participated and received honors for his hurricane relief efforts in both Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi and Hurricane Irene in Southern Vermont.
“Ellis Island has always been a symbol of opportunity, a gateway to a new life,” Zizza stated. “But I think it also symbolized, and still symbolizes today, an opportunity for people of all ethnicities to come together and create a new and better country. America is the great melting pot where everyone can succeed. But it is also a country where people lend a helping hand to those who need it.”
NECO welcomes nominations of any living U.S. citizen, native or naturalized. Nominees should be dedicated to helping others, whether at a community or national level; preserve and celebrate the history, traditions and values of their ancestry group while being valuable citizens of the United States; strive for tolerance and acceptance between ethnic, racial and religious groups in the United States and abroad; or shares their personal and/or professional gifts for the benefit of humanity.