The Examiner

Pleasantville Rotary Ready to Celebrate a Century of Service

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The Pleasantville Rotary Club is getting ready for a big celebration next week.

It is hosting a gala to mark a century of helping others locally and around the world. The event is on Thursday, June 6 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The Pleasantville Manor.

“To me this is an enormous achievement,” said Pleasantville Rotary President Helen Grishman. “It means 100 years of service not only to the community but to the larger world.”

Pleasantville Rotary started in the fall of 1923 when village residents Bert Carmer, Henry Koster and George Bell were invited to a White Plains Rotary Club meeting. Soon after, they held their own meetings at the old Mount Pleasant Bank on Wheeler Avenue, and in the small hall of the Pleasantville Community House. Local businesses and professionals were invited to attend.

The following January, the group grew to 18 members, which met the charter requirement to create the Rotary Club of Pleasantville.

The club continued to meet at the Community House until February 1927. From February to July of that year, meetings were held at a local Italian restaurant for 75 cents a person, plus tip. The club moved to the Open Gate and the price increased to $1.10 each.

In recent years, the club has met at Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua, Casa Rina in Thornwood and The Riviera in Pleasantville.

The Rotary Club of Pleasantville is comprised of community businesses and interested residents that meet every Thursday at 12:15 p.m. The club follows what’s known as Rotary Guiding Principles that promote the ideal of service in personal, business and community life.

“I first joined the Rotary in 2001 after I retired,” Grishman recalled. “I heard about how our little town in northern Westchester was able to affect things all over the world through their service and charity and their good will.”

Grishman, who is serving her third non-consecutive term as president, said past members have included some extraordinary men and women, notably World War II veterans Hugo van Perlstein (1920-2015) who was Rotary president in the late 1970s and was chair of the youth exchange program for over 30 years.

Another accomplished club president was John Guion (1923-2017), a 1940 Pleasantville High School graduate, a World War II Air Force veteran and mayor of Pleasantville from 1959 to 1963.

Grishman also remembered World War II veteran Russ Tompkins (1919-2014) who started the Rotary’s pancake breakfasts when he returned from the war. The breakfasts have become an annual fundraiser that donates the proceeds to the Community Scholarship Fund of Pleasantville.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants,” Grishman said. “The wives and sweethearts of these men struggled every day. They worked in the munitions factory in Tarrytown and had to figure out how to get from Pleasantville to the factory when gas was being rationed. It never ceases to amaze me how this little town had so many extraordinary people who continued their service and did so very much. It takes your breath away.”

Along with the pancake breakfasts, Rotary holds regular fundraisers for local organizations, including Feeding Westchester, Break the Hold, the Pleasantville Fund for Learning, PCTV, the Pleasantville Volunteer Ambulance Corps and many others.

Pleasantville Rotary works with Rotary International, one of the largest global service organizations in the world. It was started in 1905 by Paul Harris, a Chicago attorney. Today it is a network of 1.4 million international members made up of community leaders, friends and partners in some 36,000 clubs working to address challenges around the world.

Through Rotary International, the Pleasantville Rotary has helped countless organizations by providing humanitarian service and raising needed money. In 2022, it raised $10,000 for the Ukrainian Relief Fund to help those living in the war-torn country. Funds were sent to a sister club in Poland, which remains ground zero for humanitarian efforts as Ukrainians pour into that country.

Last year, Pleasantville Rotary raised $3,500 in two weeks to send to Turkey after earthquakes killed more than 36,000 people. Rotary partnered with several other club districts in Turkey to ensure funds reached communities with the most need.

Pleasantville Rotary’s annual major fundraiser that started in the early 2000s was the Westchester Wine Experience. In 2016, that fundraiser, which had been exclusively dedicated to wine, added craft beer and spirits and is now known as Hudson Valley Fermented. The rebranded event features more than 40 breweries, wineries, distilleries and cideries each year, along with live music and food offerings from about a dozen Westchester restaurants.

Henry Leyva, a Pleasantville Rotary member since 2016, said the Westchester Wine Experience and Hudson Valley Fermented fundraisers have had plenty of impact.

“Between these two major fundraisers the Rotary has raised $400,000 for charities and service organizations based both locally and internationally,” said Leyva who was president of the Pleasantville chapter during the height of COVID.

“The big turning point for our club was the pandemic,” he recalled. “That time really presented challenges we hadn’t faced before. But our club did a great job pivoting during that time to remain a vibrant and vital organization that has continually contributed to our community.”

According to Leyva, Pleasantville Rotary’s membership fluctuates between 25 and 35 members.

“We’re always looking for new members who want to give back to the community,” he noted. “The toughest thing has been to keep people focused on participating and to continue to serve the greater good.”

The upcoming gala will feature local and state officials honoring members and recognizing the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce. The two organizations have maintained a strong longtime relationship.

Tickets for the 100th anniversary gala are $150, which will include a cocktail hour, dinner and open bar. For pre-registration, which is required, and more information, visit

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