Peekskill Rotary Club. When I moved to Peekskill in late 2010, not knowing a soul, I sought community. I'd moved here from Weehawken, NJ, which is one of the most densely populated areas of the US. That area of NJ largely serves as a bedroom community for Manhattan, which looms spectacularly right across the Hudson. I never felt connected there. While the NYC bus stopped right on my corner, the P.O., bank and grocery store were over a mile away. I knew only a few people in the neighborhood, and most I passed on the street were strangers.
Once here, I became more of a joiner than I'd ever been before. I joined the , the Fourth Unitarian Fellowship and BNI, all of which were terrific. But then one day a friend told me that if I wanted to connect with the real movers and shakers of Peekskill, I should check out the Rotary Club.
I knew nothing about Rotary, but I should have. I didn't realize until much later that my aunt and uncle had been heavily involved in the Clayton (NY) Rotary for many years. My late aunt Betty had achieved the highest Rotary honor of Paul Harris Fellow. My uncle Clarence, now in his mid-80s, is still an active Rotarian. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I went to the Peekskill Rotary website, from which I learned that Rotary is a service organization, comprised of successful local professional people, which supports numerous worthy causes both locally and throughout the world. That sounded great to me (although in my previous career as a musician I was more likely to be on the receiving end of charity). I also learned that membership is by invitation. I was new in town, not really established yet. Would they want me?
I sent them an email via their website. Almost immediately I was called back by John Mattis, an extremely friendly and upbeat guy. He gave me an overview of Rotary and invited me to attend one of their Thursday lunch meetings. I'd need a sponsor. Debbie Milone from the HVGCC took me to my first meeting. (Later, when Deb couldn't attend for a while, Christine Sotmary became my sponsor.)
My background is more bohemian artist than civic-minded business person, yet I immediately felt warmly welcomed by this group. I was awestruck by the vast array of programs and projects that Rotary supports, so many of which are right here in our home area. Many of Rotary's projects directly benefit our area's youth, which has an enormous positive impact in our community. They support too many projects to list here, but you can check them out on the Peekskill Rotary website. Their biggest fundraiser of the year is the in the fall at It's an enormous endeavor, and everyone in the club puts in a tremendous amount of work.
The Peekskill Rotary meets for lunch on Thursdays at the Some might expect it to be a stodgy experience, but it's actually often the most entertaining event of my week. In addition to all the updates on projects and events, and a highly educational or enlightening program presentation, the lunch meetings are a total laugh riot. (Peekskill has a reputation for being the most fun Rotary Club in the area, or perhaps anywhere.) At each meeting funds for charity are raised, one dollar at a time, though "fines." Members stand up and fine themselves and others for absolutely anything. There's a lot of good-natured ribbing, and with several razor-witted natural comedians in the group, people are often crying laughing. There are happy fines and sad fines. My team won (or lost) fines, talking business and advertising fines. It can be anything. I've been fined for the color of my shirt matching my napkin. I've even been fined (a happy fine) for my Patch blog.
So now I'm a Rotarian. I'm trying to be a good Rotarian, but I'm still in awe of the tremendous Service Above Self mindset of the membership. These are the people in our community who truly step up and give of themselves, above-and-beyond, on a daily basis. You can see who they are--check out the website. But you can also just walk around town. Every time I go out I run into at least one Rotarian. They're indeed the movers and shakers of our community--the community I was seeking, and have found.
I'd better start collecting dollar bills. After this post goes up I'll need a fist-full of them at the next meeting. www.peekskillrotary.com