“I always wanted to know how I could give back and help, but I didn’t know how to go about it,” says Rotarian David Bistany, who became a member last year. “The Rotary Club gives us a vehicle to do that. And when you do it, it’s very humbling. It’s amazing.”
Founded in 1906 in Chicago by Illinois attorney Paul Harris, the club was created to bring together likeminded business professionals who conducted business with ethics and high standards while also raising the quality of their communities.
Now Rotary boasts 1.2 million members worldwide, has clubs in more than 200 countries, and has raised more than $1 billion for humanitarian efforts.
The Hoboken Rotary Club, founded in 1921, has kept the traditions of rotary while adapting to its ever-evolving town.
“If you choose to meet and do business with people of a like mind who are honest, truthful, mutually beneficial, then you know when you do business with a Rotarian, you’re doing business with someone you can trust and that you are always going to feel good about it in the end,” says Treasurer Gregory Visconti, who has been a member since 1989.
Networking within the club is not meant for personal gain but rather to mentor and to inspire one another to serve those in need.
“We help locally, nationally, and internationally,” says President Rich Marsh. “And the nice thing about Rotary that I think is different from a lot of other organizations is that no matter what you want to do, anywhere, you can do it. You just have to get enough support from the club, you’re off and running. There are no limitations.”
A Good Fit
Like the city, the Hoboken Rotary Club is a small society that can have great impact.
“I think one of the things that makes us a little different is our size,” says Secretary Megan Marsh. “We’re not huge, but that works to our advantage. So when something happens, we can put together stuff really quickly. There’s not a lot of bureaucracy. Some clubs are really large with a lunch and evening club.
Nearly a century since its founding, the club continues to serve.
Every first Monday of the month, members cook food for The Hoboken Shelter. Often there is so much food that the shelter uses leftovers for lunch the next day.
Annually, the club holds coat drives and donates them to various organizations throughout the city such as The Hoboken Shelter, the Jubilee Center, and the In Jesus’ Name charity.
During the holidays, the club wraps gifts for the children of the Boys & Girls Club. It also throws a pizza and ice cream party for the kids, hosted by Santa.
For every first grader in town, the club publishes a book with the name of the student, their teacher, and classmates, which encourages them to enjoy learning how to read. Third graders are given dictionaries, and for fourth graders, a spelling bee is held to test their literacy.
The club also funds the weeklong Rotary Youth Leadership Academy, where kids learn about leadership qualities and how to become good leaders.
Recently, the club helped to restore Hoboken’s American Legion Post 107, which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The post, which will open next year, is being completely rebuilt and will house six homeless veterans.
In a collaborative effort with the Hoboken Fire Department and many others, the club helped organize a fundraiser that donated more than $1 million in supplies to the fire department of Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic. Firefighters in Boca Chica had been using archaic equipment and wore raincoats when fighting fires. The city was so grateful for the donation that it held a special holiday in honor of the Hoboken firefighters.
The Gift of Life program raises money to sponsor a child from a developing country in need of heart surgery. Rotarians volunteer to foster children during rehabilitation. The program also sends doctors to developing countries to perform surgeries for children and to teach local doctors how to perform them.
The club supports the Alliance for Smiles program, which sponsors treatment for children with cleft lips and palates in underserved areas of the world.
“To see that transformation, you’re not only saving someone’s life, you’re also taking a bigger step to show people in that family, community, village, country, that there other people outside of that place that care,” Visconti says.
The club meets every Tuesday at noon at The Hoboken Bar & Grill. Meetings are open to anyone who is interested in the club and its services.
Says club Public Relations Specialist Christine Bridgelal: “It doesn’t matter what you do, where you go, who you’re with. If you want to do something that’s from within your heart, you will find it. If you want to pay it forward, become a Rotarian.”—07030
If you're interested in becoming a member or for any other information about The Hoboken Rotary Club, call (201) 898-1581 or email Cbridgelal@bankwithbcb.com