History of Club: Rotary Celebrates 80 years of community service

By Howard Prosnitz, Staff Writer

Teaneck Suburbanite, December 17 2009, p. 3

Since 1929, The Teaneck rotary Club has served the community by providing scholarships, contributing to philanthropies and funding worthwhile projects.

Walter HeadThe year 2009 marks the club's 80th anniversary.

Some of the township's leading civic and business leaders have served the club as president, including Paul Volcker and James Welsh, the first and second municipal managers; Teaneck High School Principal Charles Steele; Councilman Thomas Costa; Recreation Director Richard Rodda; School Superintendent Lester Neulen and insurance brother Clarence Lofberg.

Walter Head, who was provost of Bergen Junior College, which once occupied the campus of today's Fairleigh Dickinson University was a Teaneck Rotary Club member. Head rose to become governor of the Rotary districct 7490, which encompasses Bergen, Passaic and Essex counties, and later served as International Rotary President.

The Walter Head Foundation, established by the district, awards scholarships of up to $10,000 to graduate students in various social service programs or in journalism.

The Teaneck Club is one of the thousands of Rotary International Clubs in the United States. Rotary clubs have also been established in more than 200 courtries.

Rotary International was founded in Chicago in 1903 by Paul Harris, a local lawyer, who reached out to four businessmen to form a networking group.

The members rotated meeting locations and chose Rotary as the name for the newly formed club.

"Rotary began as a networking group but the premise has always been service above self," said Larry Bauer, a Teaneck club member. "We look at what we can give back to the community and to the world at large."

The Teaneck club has long been involved in raising money for Holy Name Hospital. In the early 1950s, the club donated an electric cardiogram machine to the hospital, when such equipment was less common.

Today, the club sponsors nursing scholarship through Fairleigh Dickinson University and last year donated money to establish a patients' medical library at the hospital.

Silver AnniveraryIn the early 1950s,the club funded two thirds of the cost of building the band shell in Votee Park. One of the major projects of Rotary Clubs nationwide has been the Gift of Life program, which brings children from third world countries to the United States for life-saving heart surgery not available in their own nations. Although a substantial portion of the medical services are donated, each child costs $6,000 to sponsor. The Teaneck club has sponsored six children so far and has $5,000 for the seventh child, said Maitland Avenue resident Paul Platek, who with his wife Carmen, has acted as host family for the Gift of Life children and parents.

An annual local project is the donation of dictionaries to each third grader in Teaneck public schools. Recently club provided medical bags to the ambulance corps. "We are involved with the police and fire chiefs about purchasing equipment not covered by their department's regular budgets," said Louis Knaub, the club's president. The Teaneck club is also sponsoring a Japanese cultural exchange student at Fairleign Dickinson University. Although the student is living with a host family in Fort Lee, the Teaneck club acts as her ambassador in the United Stated, said Knaub.

The Teaneck Rotary provides meals at the shelter for the homeless in Hackensack and has sponsored and served holiday meals a Bright Side Manor in Teaneck. The club recently has begun making an annual contribution to the Gilda's Club in Hackensack.

In the past, the Teaneck club has sponsored an Interact club, the high school version of Rotary. But no meetings have been held at the high school this year because of administrative issues, said Platek, the club's Interact leaison.

The Teaneck Rotary meets every Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. at Vitale's Restaurant at 293 Queen Anne Road.

"We are seeking new members and anyone interested is invited to drop in and attend a meeting," Knaub said. Prospective members can also contact him at 201-487-1333.

Rotary club 1946