Union City’s Four Star Diner is the go-to place for a morning coffee with a side order of community hobnobbing, so it’s not surprising that plans for a new Union City-West New York Rotary Club materialized there last year.
The new club will fill the void left by the North Hudson Rotary Club, which merged with the Cliffside Park-Fairview chapter in 2008 due to dwindling membership.
On Feb. 25, the 27-member club celebrated its newly-obtained charter at West New York’s Marinero Grill, and inducted “public servants” Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack and West New York Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega as honorary members.
Also present was the newly-elected board of directors, comprised of President Cosmo A. Cirillo, Vice President Nikki Mederos, Secretary Laurie Nagurka, and Treasurer Rebeca Peraza, as well as Budget Director Jorge Tutiven and International Affairs Director Ralph Peralta.
“[We’re all about finding] the need in the community.” – Cosmo A. Cirillo
Rotary is a volunteer organization that initiates humanitarian projects, with members united under the motto, “Service above Self.”
Building their membership
A local chapter of the club was resurrected when Rotary Cliffside Park District Assistant Gov. John Mosca approached Cirillo, West New York’s assistant town clerk and president of the town’s Board of Education, to see if anyone in the area would be interested in joining.
Cirillo was spotlighted last year for his appointment to the latter position due to his young age. A 2009 Seton Hall University graduate, Cirillo may have been the youngest president of a school board in the state.
Described by the board at the time of his appointment as “a breath of fresh air,” Cirillo breathed new life into the local chapter of the Rotary Club with the help of Peraza and Tutiven. Meetings at the Four Star Diner commenced, with the club boasting its first three unofficial members.
From the very beginning, it was clear – from the fate of the North Hudson chapter and also club requirements – that the club’s success rested upon its membership numbers. A newly-formed Rotary Club must hit the 25-member mark before it can become officially chartered.
Though club members participated in some outreach programs before its charter, “at this point, we’ve [mostly] stayed within [boosting] our membership,” Cirillo said. “That’s how we’ve grown.”
Within the last month, the club finally achieved enough members to be chartered through the district.
The club meets at 7:45 a.m. every Tuesday at the Four Star Diner, but for those who cannot attend the early morning meeting, there is also an evening meeting on the first Thursday of every month at 5:30 p.m. at Marinero Grill.
“We are welcome to anybody coming in,” Cirillo said. “It’s all about serving the community. That’s our number one objective. We’re willing to take anyone who wants to help in any way possible.”
The club also offers guest speakers at the evening meetings, provided through the support of the West New York Women’s Club who have been “very helpful and very supportive,” according to Cirillo.
Rotary board of directors
Though positions were initially filled on a volunteer basis, each of the club’s board members – all of whom are actively involved in the community – was ultimately voted into his or her respective position by the entire membership.
Cirillo became president of the club, and the other two founding members, Peraza and Tutiven, became treasurer and budget director, respectively.
Both work for Provident Bank – Peraza as a manager of the West New York branch and Tutiven as a branch manager of the Union City branch.
Rounding out the roster are vice president Mederos, who is also the director of community affairs at Palisades Medical Center, and secretary Laurie Nagurka, a municipal worker and member of the West New York Women’s Club. The final member of the board is Ralph Peralta, a North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue firefighter, in the position of international affairs director.
Back in its unofficial days, the Rotary Club began building its presence in the community through various projects funded by other organizations, including a dictionary project last year sponsored by Provident Bank. The project entailed the donation of 200 dictionaries to third graders in Union City and West New York.
This year, the dictionary project is back – and larger than before – sponsored this time by Palisades Medical Center and Dvine Konektion Community Development Corporation. The doubling of dictionaries to 400 will enable more children to benefit from the outreach.
“[We’re all about finding] the need in the community, whether through literacy projects [or otherwise],” Cirillo said.
Another project to return in a few months is a collection of donations for Palisades Emergency Rescue Corporation (PERC), which the club did last November to great success.
The club has also helped out during the holidays at Hoboken University Medical Center and Palisades Medical Center by distributing toys to the pediatric unit and spending the day at the Harborage with senior citizens, respectively.
They hope to continue their work at the hospitals this Easter through toy distributions.
Another anticipated project is a career day, in which high school students will shadow various members of the club who come from a variety of occupations.
Reaching beyond borders
The club, Cirillo said, is to the point now where it would like to concentrate on fundraising.
They’re also looking to work on international projects with Rotary International, such as a “Gift of Life” program. In fact, the program, in which local chapters support children internationally to come into the country to receive heart operations they normally wouldn’t have access to, is the reason Cirillo said he got involved with Rotary.
They’re also looking to raise money for another program, “Polio Plus,” which Cirillo refers to as “the driving force behind the eradication of polio in the world.”
“At this point, I think that’s where we’re headed,” Cirillo said.
Anyone interested in joining the club can e-mail the club at email@example.com for more information.
Deanna Cullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.