PLAINFIELD, NJ – Since 1921, the Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield has played an active and important role in the community.
The club, the oldest service organization in the Plainfields, is comprised of a diverse group of business, community and professional leaders. Plainfield-North Plainfield Rotarians participate in a broad range of humanitarian, intercultural, and educational activities designed to have a positive impact on the quality of life in the communities they serve.
“We are a service club. Rotary’s objective is ‘Service Above Self’ and our guiding principles are the following: Is it the truth, is it fair to all concerned, will it build good will and better friends, is it beneficial to all concerned,” said Ravenell Williams IV, president of the Plainfield-North Plainfield Rotary Club. “Our main goal is to give back to the community.”
On a local front, the organization works to effect change within the community, develop leadership skills, gain an understanding of- and have an impact on – local and international humanitarian issues, and develop relationships with other community and business leaders.
Throughout the year, the Plainfield-North Plainfield Rotary Club conducts various fundraising projects. For the past 17 years, Rotary members have worked at the concession stands at Rutgers during basketball season, raising some $10,000 a year for the club. Additionally, the club holds a Wine Tasting Dinner each spring that honors a member of the community with the ‘Service Above Self Award.’
The club also holds a free Pancake Breakfast for Seniors in April and donates monthly to the Starfish Food Pantry in Plainfield, also providing 12 complete dinners each Christmas Thanksgiving and Easter. Additionally, for the past six years, the Plainfield-North Plainfield Club has tended up to three plots at the Giving Garden at Wagner Farms Arboretum in Warren. Members dedicate their time and talent to grow various vegetables and fruits, which are then donated to Starfish, the Salvation Army and other community food banks.
Each year since 2004, the Club’s Dictionary Project has provided the gift of learning to students. Each fall, members and volunteers visit every elementary school in the two communities to hand out the free dictionaries and are thanked by school administrators and children who look forward to the arrival of the Rotarians and their gifts.
“We receive many, many ‘thank you’ notes every year,” said Williams. “They are very heartfelt and heartwarming.”
According to Michael Townley, a member of the club since 1984 and its current secretary, literacy is so important to developing young children and instilling in them a longing for learning. “When we give out the dictionaries, we speak to the third graders about why we serve others, how they can serve others, and how knowledge and learning will help them grow to be future business and professional leaders, we see their eyes light up and feel their enthusiasm,” said Townley. “We ask them to cherish their gift, which is a key to their future.”
For many years, the club has also provided financial support to graduating high school seniors going on to accredited, post-secondary colleges or universities. “We don’t have a specific total of the money awarded,” said Townley. “We do know that the club has awarded scholarships for many, many years, including at one time scholarships to student nurses at Muhlenberg Hospital.”
The Plainfield-North Plainfield Rotary Club awards its own scholarships totaling $6,000 to $8000 a year and also selects and interviews applicants and awards another $16,000 to $18,000 in scholarships for the Plainfield Foundation.
“We formed a non-profit corporation in 2007 to help us in our efforts to improve education and literacy,” said Williams. “Through this corporation, we raise money and also accept donations to help us provide the dictionaries and scholarship assistance that many students need.”
Additionally, for the past 88 years, the club has held a Track and Field Meet for middle school students. Funded solely by the Rotary, the meet is the club’s most important annual community service project. Rotary Club members and their friends serve as the officials at the meet with assistance from members of North Plainfield High School’s Interact Club, the youth-based service club sponsored by Rotary International.
“I am blessed to have been invited to join this club,” said Townley. “Rotary has given me specific opportunities to help others while enjoying the friendship and camaraderie of people from the community with a like spirit, people who I am proud to call friends.”
As a member of Rotary International, the Plainfield-North Plainfield club also supports and is dedicated to projects that provide health care and medical supplies; clean water; food; job training; youth development; and education and literacy to millions of people in need, particularly in underdeveloped countries. Over the past twenty-seven years, Rotary and its partners have reduced polio cases by 99 percent worldwide with Rotarians working to help immunize more than 2 billion children against polio in 122 countries.
There are some 1.2 million Rotarians in 33,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographic areas with the Plainfield-North Plainfield club one of 39 clubs in New Jersey’s Central District. At its peak, the Plainfield-North Plainfield Rotary Club was comprised of more than 150 members; today the club includes approximately 20 extremely active and dedicated individuals.
“We are relatively small group but we accomplish great things,” said Williams, noting that in addition to members, the club receives assistance from some very dedicated volunteers, including some very responsible students who belong to Interact club at North Plainfield High School and the Earlyact Club at West End School. “These two service clubs for youth follow the Rotary model in working toward community service,” said Williams, adding, “The Interact Club is highly regarded at North Plainfield High School, and undertakes many projects to benefit others. They also support our club at the Giving Garden, at Rutgers concessions, at our Senior Citizens Pancake Breakfast, our Track and Field Meet, and every other project we undertake. We couldn’t do half of what we do without the Interact Club’s support.”
According to Williams, membership in the Rotary is exciting, challenging and rewarding. “You become a member of a world wide organization that helps people in need in your community as well as communities all over the world,” he said.
The Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield welcomes new members who have an interest in serving others while working with others and while developing new friendships. Club members gather weekly for a luncheon meeting at 12:15 p.m. Wednesdays at Giovanna's Restaurant on South Avenue in Plainfield. Membership is by invitation only and open to business and professional leaders – both men and women – whose work fits in an ‘open’ classification and who have been invited to join the club. Members must live or work in in the club’s territory or a bordering municipality.
“Anyone who is interested in joining Rotary is invited to come to a meeting and see what we are all about. This is an opportunity for Rotary to learn about you and for a potential member to find out what we are all about,” said Townley, noting that to become a member one must be sponsored into the club and approved by the board. “We strive to serve others and anyone who has that service drive is welcome to be a member.”