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New City Rotary History


When did it all begin?

New City Rotary was formed in the summer of 1952, but didn't celebrate its Charter Night until March 23, 1953. The sponsoring Rotary clubs were Pearl River & Spring Valley. One member from each sponsoring club - joined the new club in New City. Sam Hickman of Mahopac Rotary was the District Governor of our District 721 (now called 7210). The first Charter Night was attended by more than 400 people.

The first elected officials were provisional officers: Mike Yuda - President; Ed Roepe - Vice President; Sal Ciancimino - Treasurer; Gus Hansen, - Secretary. The directors were Freddy Jones, Jerry Carnegie, Gary Neiwiede, Harry Kienke and J. C. Funk.

Our Club's most senior club member now, although he was not a charter member, is Ev Johns. Ev joined Rotary 54 years ago in 1955.


Which day shall we meet?

As there were already local Rotary clubs meeting Tuesday through Thursday, it was recommended that the new club select either Monday or Friday for meetings. And since in those days Catholics were prohibited from eating meat on Fridays and fish had not yet become popular in restaurants and Rotary was always respectful of individual's needs; Monday was selected. Our first meeting place was Jerry's Tavern owned by Jerry Carnegie and located on the corner of what is now Congers Road and American Legion Way.


What have we accomplished locally?

New City Rotary has had a very close association with Jawonio dating back to the 1950's when Goody Katzen was Executive Director of Jawonio and a member of New City Rotary. Goody served as president of New City Rotary during 1962-63. That relationship has continued to this day with Paul Tendler. Paul also served as Club President 1986-87. During our early days, Goody was the only New City Rotarian who was also director of a not-for-profit organization. Since then we have been privileged to have several.

Our first major project was to purchase the bricks for Jawonio's initial building, at a cost of $10,000 - a great deal of money in those days. You could buy some houses in New City for that in the early 50's. It took 3 years to raise that money.

Our relationship with Jawonio has always been mutually beneficial. For example, when Jawonio needed a duplicator, the club bought them a Gestetner. Then for many years, even after the demise of this equipment, Jawonio typed, duplicated and mailed our New City Rotary newsletter. They also hosted our club's Family Picnic and Pancake Breakfast projects. One time our club borrowed grills from the Fire Department for our Pancake Breakfast at Jawonio. We then had the added opportunity to learn how sensitive Jawonio's new fire alarm system was and how quickly the Fire Department could respond to an alarm.

In 1954, the club started the first Little League in New City (the second in Rockland County). We supported it for about five years, until it became self-sustaining.

For many years, we held a fishing contest for youngsters at Lake DeForest. The first contest was in the streams, which subsequently became part of Lake DeForest. The competition and prizes were organized by age category in order to give the most youngsters a chance to win a prize. One year the prize for the largest bass was almost awarded to the daughter of one of our perennial pranksters who brought in a sea bass for weighing. The sharp eyes of Freddie Jones spotted it immediately and the joke was over. Freddie served as President 1961-62.

During the late 50's, 60's and 70's, the club held bicycle safety days. Children brought their bikes to the courthouse parking lot where Rotarians, trained by Joe Holland and Freddie Jones, inspected the bicycles. Bicycle safety literature was distributed.  

Every year at Halloween, in conjunction with the New City Firemen, New City Rotary sponsored a "Ragamuffin Parade" along Main Street. Prizes were awarded at the Firehouse and refreshments were provided to all participants.

In the early years, we involved ourselves with providing bus shelters for our community. Our members constructed several shelters and placed them around New City.

The tradition of New City Rotary creating and distributing holiday baskets to needy families in the New City area started in the early sixties. Over time, the program was modified because of the varying needs of the recipients. Bill Nest supervised this project most of those years. Bill was president of our club during years 1971-72.

New City Rotary was also a long-time sponsor of The American Legion Junior Band. The band participated in regional and national competitions. One year, when they won the National Championship in their class, New City Rotary helped raise the necessary funds to charter a plane to take them, their instruments and chaperones to Los Angeles for the finals.

The longest running New City Rotary project has been the scholarships we provide for graduating high school seniors who plan to continue their education. These scholarships based on a student's academics and service to the community have increased in number, in value and in criteria of eligibility over the years. The scholarships were named to honor the first Superintendent of the Clarkstown Central School District and New City Rotarian Past-President Felix Festa. Felix was President of New City Rotary in years 1974-75. Additional scholarships are now named in memory of other Rotarians (Past-President John Cumming (1963-64), Vijay Pradham, and Joel Flick) and in memory of a special person in our community (Harris Berger). Meeting the many gifted youngsters who have applied for the scholarship over the years has shown us the promise of future generations.

New City Rotary has been delivering Meals-On-Wheels every Monday since July 1991. Each week 2 Rotarians deliver trays of prepared food to people who are unable to buy or prepare meals for themselves. This program was developed and initiated during the presidencies of Will Warren (1989-90) and Jim Yarmus (1990-91). We thank Steve Silverstein for perpetually supervising this project.

Another ongoing, hands-on Rotary project is Adopt-A-Highway. That began in March 1992 during the presidency of then Clarkstown School Superintendent Jack Kraus. With Tom Condon coordinating the program through 2008, New City Rotarians and members of Interact have been seen removing litter from Route 304 several times a year.

In recent years we have added a continuing program of contributing food to People-To-People (P2P). Once a month members bring a variety of food items for the P2P food pantry. For those who forget a food donation, cash is an accepted substitute.


What have we accomplished internationally?

The club has been active in International Service, sponsoring student exchanges at all levels from high school to graduate students. Rotary Foundation provides these scholarships.

In 1965, Ted Dusenenko, then a 25 year old math teacher in Clarkstown, was sponsored by New City Rotary for a Rotary Group Study Exchange Program. He won a place in the program and traveled to Australia for 2 months with 6 other young business and professional people. About ten years later, New City Rotarian Joe Matijka led a Group Study Exchange program.

In addition to having hosted and sponsored people for various scholarship and exchange programs, New City Rotary has supported these programs financially by honoring deserving members with a Paul Harris Fellow. The award means that a contribution of $1,000 has been made to Rotary Foundation in one's name. Several members have individually supported Rotary Foundation by contributing $1,000 to purchase Paul Harris Fellows for themselves or individuals they personally wish to honor.

We take pure drinking water for granted, but that is not the case in many parts of the world. In 1984-85, President Jim Hix initiated and completed our first project of providing funds for digging wells for potable water in the Philippines. It was a great success.

Another international project involved providing lenses for implantation into cataract patients in poor countries. Past-President Jim Yarmus oversaw that program for many years. Jim acquired the lenses and arranged the delivery to a recipient Rotary Club. That club coordinated the delivery to a surgeon who implanted the lenses without cost to the needy patient.

Some of our more recent international projects have been purchasing a water buffalo for farming needs, buying desks for a rural school for blind children, providing poor children with food and clothing, and providing funds to support a cleft palate repair project - all in poor areas of the world.


How does New City Rotary grow?

The first Rotary club was organized in Chicago in 1905 for business and professional men. And, although it expanded nationally and internationally, it remained a men's organization until it was opened to women in the 1980s. In 1987, New City Rotary inducted its first woman member, Pat Halo. Pat, whose classification was "Benefits/Consulting," also became our first woman officer. Sandi Jeanette was our first woman president for Rotary year 1994-95. Sandi was followed by President Marcia Waitzman (1995-96) and President Alma Roman (1996-97). Women now comprise a significant portion of our club (~37%) and leadership.

New City Rotarians are always looking for the best members of our community who are willing and able to contribute their time and provide service back to the community.

New City is proud to have produced three District Governors. Dave Pedersen (Past-President 1981-82) became District Governor of our own District 7210 (1987-88) and Jim Yarmus (Past-President 1990-91) served as our District Governor 2007-2008.

Bill Decker, a Past-President-Elect from our club, went on to become District Governor in northern Arizona.


History of social events:

During the early years, the major social events were Charter Nights -- later renamed Induction Dinner -- Holiday Party and the District Conferences. Although they were all worthy events that New City Rotarians enjoyed, our wives and girlfriends--it was an all-male organization and I'm not sure there were significant-others back then-- didn't know many people. But in the late 1960s or early 1970s, several of the women got together, wrote and then performed a take-off on the Tonight Show at one of our dinner parties. Our loved ones were able to expose our foibles as none other could, or would dare to. Many of these holiday parties were not considered to have ended until we had breakfast at a Rotarian's home.

More recently, we have enjoyed, Valentine's Day celebrations, wine tasting and game nights, in addition to our Family Picnics, Holiday Dinner-Dance and Induction of Officers Dinner-Dance.

For seven years, in the 1970s, the club sponsored winter vacations to such places as St. Croix, Paradise Island, Acapulco, Jamaica, Canary Islands, Costa del Sol and the Dominican Republic. These trips were 4 to 8 days and were enjoyed by all who participated.


Meeting Places:

During our 55 years in New City, we have closed several restaurants. Our first meeting place was Jerry's Tavern. After Jerry's death, the new owner of the tavern invited us to meet somewhere else. We moved our meetings to Davies Lake Hotel, owned by New City Rotarian Dolf Millich. After several years, we returned to our original meeting place, then called Ye Olde Inn. A few years later, it was sold again and we were again invited to meet elsewhere. The next restaurant we were to close was the Town Tavern, where we met for over twenty years; we were probably the last customers. We turned off the lights at Town Tavern and moved to La Terrazza in 1997.



It is difficult to summarize the diversity of accomplishments that New City Rotary has enjoyed over 55 years. In this discussion I have associated some of our accomplishments with specific years or presidents, and that was accurate. But few of these projects are accomplished by one person. The strength of this Club is its membership. Rotary depends on all of us to contribute our time, energy and resources to improve our club and our community each year.