ELIZABETH, NJ – One hundred years ago, Woodrow Wilson was president and America was entering World War I, and the Elizabeth Rotary Club was beginning its work.
Friday, April 21, the Rotary Club of Elizabeth will celebrate its century of service at the Renaissance Newark Airport Hotel. Founded on April 1, 1917, the Elizabeth Club is part of Rotary International, an organization with 1.2 million members in 32,000 clubs in over 200 countries.
According to Art Lobdell, President of the Rotary Club of Elizabeth, “Just 12 years after the establishment of Rotary, 25 enterprising business and tradesmen formed the Rotary Club of Elizabeth, in April, 1917. Over the years, thousands of men and women have served the Greater Elizabeth Community through the Elizabeth Club, which is in continuous operation to this day.”
Since that day, the Rotary Club of Elizabeth has played a central role in enhancing the welfare of its host town and residents, through the Great Depression, World Wars, and up to the current day. Challenge after challenge was met by Elizabeth Rotarians contributing their talents and resources to serve the community.
According to Rotarian Kenneth Richuso, “This was perhaps best exemplified by the establishment of a scholarship fund in 1982. Small at first, this effort benefitted from club fundraisers and a major bequest from a former Rotarian, Albert Davis, and his wife, Louise. Since 1986, the Albert & Louise Davis Scholarship Fund of the Rotary Club of Elizabeth has given a total of over $500,000 in scholarships to over 300 Elizabeth High School students. These students have gone on to careers in virtually every field.” Richuso serves as the President of the Club’s scholarship fund.
Working closely with the local school system, the Rotary Club of Elizabeth initiated a number of youth service clubs that instill the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self” to youth of various ages. These include an Earlyact Club operated out of Our Lady of Guadalupe Academy, an Interact Club at Elizabeth High School, and a Rotaract Club at Kean University.
Another Club project benefitting young people is one that has given free dictionaries each year to third grade students in both Elizabeth and Hillside. To date, over 20,000 dictionaries have been distributed.
Youth around the world have benefitted from Rotary International’s commitment to eliminate the scourge of polio from Planet Earth, according to Rotarian William Mealia. “The Rotary Club of Elizabeth enthusiastically joined this effort when it was announced in 1985, supplying funds and leadership talents to a variety of polio-eradication efforts. Just recently, two Elizabeth Rotarians travelled to Togo to personally administer the polio vaccine. Today, only a handful of polio cases are reported each year, usually in remote, war-torn areas. The end of polio is in sight.”
The Club has given many hundreds of thousands of dollars to worthy charitable endeavors both worldwide and in Elizabeth. Currently, the Club is fulfilling a three-year, $10,000 pledge to benefit the expansion of the Emergency Department at Trinitas Regional Medical Center. Another $10,000 gift was given recently by the Club to the “Where Angels Play” playground project.
In order to fulfill these charitable efforts, the Club stages several fundraising events including the annual Taste of the Towns, now called the Taste of Elizabeth. Held each year since 1993, these food-tasting events have raised over $400,000 and priceless good will.
Rotary Club President Lobdell concluded, “The Rotary Club of Elizabeth is well-equipped to continue its long-held tradition of ‘Service Above Self’ for many more years to come.”
For information on the Centennial Celebration Gala, please visit the Club’s website at ElizabethRotary.org, or call 908-352-7300.