BEAVERTON – When Stefano Pizzi and Josie Sposito brought their family from Fondi, Italy, to Beaverton, Michigan, their main goal was to give their children an American experience. What they found, however, was a second home, and a community who welcomed them with open arms.
Josie, who was born in Lansing, Michigan, spent a month each summer in Michigan, although her family had moved to Italy, where her father was from, when she was just four years old. The experience, coupled with her college years in the States, made her bilingual and gave her a good understanding of American culture.
It was that understanding that she wanted to pass on to her own children – Joseph, 21; Icaro, 17; Sion, 16; Stesie, 13; and Jeremy, 6.
“My mom’s family all live here in Lansing, but in the 19 years we have been married, I have not been back,” Josie said.
“Everything came from the idea that we wanted the children to have a bit of their American culture from their mother,” Stefano said.
The family decided to make a move when their oldest son, Joseph, chose to move to Brighton, Michigan.
“His presence pulled us here,” Josie explained, adding that the choice to uproot their family and travel to the United States was not an easy one – it was difficult in many ways, especially financially, but she wanted her kids to have the experiences she had, and to come to know her American family.
Her aunt told her that she had a trailer in Beaverton that she did not use in the winter, so after much thought, Josie and Stefano decided to make the move.
They packed some things, and by the end of October, they were headed to Beaverton. They planned to be here just three months.
But of course, things do change. The trip was extended, due in part to how welcome the family feels in their new place.
At first, Josie said, they were a bit apprehensive, not knowing anyone and moving to an unfamiliar place. They took their children to enroll at Beaverton Rural Schools, and they got the first inkling that their new home wouldn’t stay unfamiliar for long.
“They were so helpful, trying to make things the best for us and the kids,” Josie said of the people at Beaverton schools.
With school on the agenda each day, the family began to look around at the town of Beaverton. One day while heading to school, they saw a sign for the Beaverton Activity Center. They left the kids at school and decided to check it out – and they were glad they did!
People welcomed them warmly, and genuinely wanted to know them and help them find anything they might need.
“We traveled in Europe a lot, but never found that type of welcoming,” said Stefano. “You sense that they are actually concerned about you.”
That warmth extended to their neighbors in Albright Shores, as well. If their neighbor saw them starting a fire, or doing something else, he would come over to help. In fact, the day after hunting season began, he came over with some good outdoors advice and a gift.
“We didn’t know anything about hunting season,” Josie said. “The day after it started, he came over with two orange caps.”
The biggest difference the family found was the difference the weather made. In Italy, as Stefano explained, winters are very mild. Much of life is enjoyed outside the home. Suddenly, they were faced with being stuck indoors, and driving in occasionally inclement weather.
That didn’t deter them from extending their stay, however. The welcome that they found from their new friends and neighbors encouraged them to go through the proper channels to stay through the end of the school year.
And throughout the stay, Beaverton Activity Center has remained a vital part of the family’s lifestyle.
“We come to talk and exercise, read…” Josie said. “The kids can use the computers or hang out with their friends.”
“It kind of became our second home,” she added.
The extended stay will not only allow the family to continue to experience the American lifestyle, it will give them time to consider a longer, even more permanent stay.
“Another year will give our children a better knowledge of language, and we will be there to assist our son in college,” Josie said.
In fact, they have put their home in Italy on sale. They hope eventually to settle in the Midland area in order to be near the two oldest children when they embark on college in Midland, and still remain close to the network of friends they have come to know in Beaverton.
“Everything seems to be falling into place,” Josie said, adding that she is even considering returning to college to gain credentials to work in her field – physical therapy – in the United States.
One thing is for certain, the family will never forget the love and support that they have felt since being embraced by the Beaverton Community.
“We felt so quickly appreciated,” Josie said. “We feel so supported by the community.”
Beaverton won’t soon forget their favorite Italian family either – the family has donated some beautiful paintings from an Italian artist that they know. The artwork will be displayed at the Beaverton Activity Center.
Quite appropriately, each picture reads, “Dall’italia Con Amore” – “From Italy with Love.”
Stefano, Josie, and their five youngest kids return to Italy following Beaverton’s graduation at the end of May, and hope to be back by the end of August.