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Rotary Club of Lake Mahopac Puts Service Above Self

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By Michael Gold

From Westchester and Putnam counties to Ukraine and Africa, the Rotary Club of Lake Mahopac is putting its international motto into action – “Service Above Self,” a refreshing antidote to the individualist ethos often on display on Facebook or Instagram.

The club funds programs to help provide food, shelter, educational opportunities and protection for women and children, and other projects.

For example, the club provides grants to the Putnam/Northern Westchester Women’s Resource Center (PNWWRC), for women who need to escape their homes, said Lillian Jones, a past president of the Lake Mahopac Rotary. The PNWWRC works to “create a safe, supportive environment that eliminates violence against women and children and promotes gender equality,” the resource center website states.

Also, the Rotary Club offers an annual scholarship program for one graduating Mahopac High School student going to college. The winning student receives $1,250 per year for each year of school, totaling $5,000. The club also gives funds to one student graduating from a vocational program.

“We participate in food and coat drives and clean up drives,” Jones explained. “We provide senior citizens an annual hot dog lunch and we’ve done Easter Egg hunts with the Carmel Recreation Department. We planted a tree each year at Airport Park, Chamber Park and Sycamore Park. We helped provide the funds for the Putnam County Historical Society to clean and restore their historical markers.”

The markers highlight Revolutionary War and historical figures and sites in the area, including Eleazer Hamblin, the first settler in the area, in what is now Carmel, John Crane, the first town clerk of Carmel, and Canopus Island, a sacred site of the Wappinger tribe.

Nationally, Rotary also provides money for vocational training for adults with developmental disabilities and installing solar lights for remote homes on the Navajo Nation reservation in the American Southwest.

Internationally, 46,000 Rotary Clubs around the world contributed more than $15 million in humanitarian aid to help Ukraine.

“We funded shipping of medical supplies and food,” Jones explained.

Rotary International also contributed money for supplies of water, clothing, shelter and transportation to the Ukrainian people as well.

Rotary sends funds to ShelterBox, a nonprofit that provides emergency shelter and essential supplies, including cooking sets, tools and soap for families that have lost their homes due to natural disasters or war. Rotary is helping to build wells in Ethiopia, reduce malaria in Zambia, vaccinate people against COVID-19 in Italy, provide housing for Syrian refugees and working to end polio worldwide.

“We’re interested in helping people. People are people no matter where they are,” said Jones, who has been involved with Rotary for 12 years.

She’s quick to point out that there are many others who have been with the club for much longer. The Lake Mahopac club, which was founded in 1932, has 50 members and “we continue to grow,” she said.

Rotary International states on its website that, “we work together to champion peace, fight illiteracy and poverty, help people to access clean water and sanitation, and fight disease. Our newest cause is to protect our planet and its resources.”

“Internationally, we contribute to these goals and have helped to eradicate polio. Locally, we work together to help with causes that are bigger than each of us,” Jones wrote in an e-mail.

The club provides its members with a sense of belonging, too.

“As a Rotarian, when you travel, you’re welcome at any Rotary around the world,” Jones explained. “I went to Germany and met Rotary people there. The things they’re doing are similar to us. They’re helping people, from kids to seniors. You find these people throughout the world.”

The club has staged annual Doo Wop rock n’ roll oldies shows, with entertainers from the 1950s and ‘60s, including Joey Dee, who sang “The Peppermint Twist,” The Skyliners and The Elegants. Additionally, Rotary hosts Election Eve dinners at the Mahopac Fire Department for the entire community.

Rotary, started in 1905, has historically included a diverse array of members, from Charles Mayo, the founder of the Mayo Clinic, and Adm. Richard Byrd, who made the first flight over the South Pole and explored Antarctica extensively, to Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventor of the wireless radio, and American astronaut Frank Borman, who as part of the Apollo 8 mission, comprised the first manned crew to orbit the moon.

“We continue to be active and take on new projects,” Jones said. “People get involved in areas most interesting to them, either local or internationally. It’s an organization that does a lot in the community.”

Rotary clubs can be found throughout Westchester and Putnam counties, including Pleasantville, Mount Kisco, Carmel, Brewster and Pawling.

Lake Mahopac Club members meet every Wednesday at Four Brothers Pizza Restaurant at 654 Route 6 in Mahopac. For more information or to donate, visit www.lakemahopacrotary.org.

Pleasantville resident Michael Gold has had articles published in the New York Daily News, the Albany Times Union, The Virginian-Pilot, The Palm Beach Post, other newspapers and The Hardy Society Journal, a British literary journal.

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