The concept of “Service Above Self” seems pretty straightforward. You sacrifice your time and energy for the benefit of those around you.
Here’s the tricky part—in the process, you see the fruits of your effort firsthand. You’re there to witness the positive impact you have on those with whom you work, and you can recognize the fact that you’re making the community around you a better place to live. A significant by-product to all this work is that you genuinely feel good about what you’re doing.
That’s the motivating principle behind the Hoboken Rotary Club, and in the end that sort of sacrifice doesn’t seem so selfless after all.
Credited as the world’s first service organization, the Rotary Club was founded in 1905 by Chicago attorney Paul P. Harris. The name “Rotary” comes from the club’s initial practice of rotating the location of meetings to the offices of various members. These members were all civic-minded individuals who each called on their own particular vocation or expertise to coordinate ideas for the betterment of the community.
As the concept of globalization spread throughout the 20th Century, so did the Rotary Club. In the process, club members notably aided in reconstruction following the comprehensive devastation of World War II, and continue to work tirelessly towards the eradication of Polio worldwide.
With 1.2 million members today from over 200 countries, past and present members include U.S. President Warren G. Harding, Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, American physician Dr. Charles H. Mayo (founder of the Mayo Clinic), Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi and Filipino boxer Manny Pacquaio.
Hoboken’s chapter of the Rotary Club has been in operation since 1921. As Hoboken continues to evolve as a community, the Rotary Club works in the present with an eye on the future, while honoring the past.
Serving Those Who Have Served For Us
As the rain slowly cleared on a recent Autumn Saturday, a crowd began to assemble outside the Hoboken American Legion Post 107 on 2nd Street, between Willow and Clinton. The ground was still a little wet, but that block had seen worse. The floods from Superstorm Sandy had all but destroyed the American Legion facilities, with water damage up to six feet high.
“These guys served our country,” says Hoboken Rotary Club President Joe Mindak. “They were there when we needed them, so it’s our turn to be there for them now.”
Post 107 was more than just a gathering place for veterans. This particular Post ran a monumental care-package program, shipping tons of donated materials to fighting men and women in the field year-round. Furthermore, the Post offered services to returning vets longing for a sense of community, where shared experience was seen as instrumental to progress—a philosophy which certainly resonates among Rotary Club members.
“Their place was destroyed,” says Mindak, “so we put on a block party to help raise funds for the rebuilding of the Post.”
Community outreach is a key aspect of the Rotary Club. Whenever there is a need within the community, Rotary tries to be among those who answer the call.
“We raised over $1,500 that afternoon alone,” says Ron Zimmerman, Vice President of the Hoboken Rotary Club. “In addition, we raised awareness—the City of Hoboken is looking into a number of projects where the American Legion can potentially find a permanent home within a new development at that same location.”
While the American Legion’s need stems from an extraordinary event, the Hoboken Rotary Club executes programs on an ongoing basis—some right here in our backyard, and others reaching the far side of the globe.
“The Club’s primary resources are the members themselves,” says Greg Visconti, who has spent half his life involved with the Rotary Club. “There are four areas of focus for the organization. Vocation is the root of rotary—bringing new talent and energy into the club. Community service, working for local benefit, is a second aspect. Then there’s our district affiliation—Hoboken being part of the Hudson/Bergen/Passaic District—where we focus on larger programs. Finally there’s Rotary International, where we work on initiatives abroad.”
Among the larger-scale programs is Gift of Life, in which Rotarians provide accommodation and assistance to children from sociopolitically volatile regions who are unable to find the essential medical care they need to survive.
Rose Evaristo, who once proudly served as the Hoboken Rotary Club’s first female President, has been involved in the Gift of Life program. “I’ve hosted two children—a girl from the Ukraine named Irina, and a boy from Haiti named Frantz, who stayed with both Greg [Visconti] and me,” says Evaristo. In addition to the boy, his father also came to stay as well. “The children must always have an adult stay with them.”
“Frantz had balvular spinosis, which meant he had two holes in his heart,” says Visconti. “He was in real bad shape. He couldn’t even walk from the car to the house.”