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Rotary Club of Flushing marks 50th anniversary

In its 50 years, the Rotary Club of Flushing has gone through some major changes.

Its members no longer meet in the halls of Flushing YMCA but at the Friends & Co. Restaurant in Flushing.

In 1953, the Rotarians managed to raise almost $1,000. This year they are doling out $50,000. Most noticeably, the club now accepts women as members, a practice that began in 1987.

But while the face of the club has altered, its mission has remained the same: raising and distributing funds for charities throughout the borough.

“On the basis of the fellowship that is engendered between us, we render service to the total community in a variety of ways,” said Thomas Dent, one of the founding members of the chapter.

On Friday the club will celebrate its 50th anniversary at Terrace on the Park at 7 p.m. The event is co-sponsored by the Flushing Savings Bank.

The organization will donate $50,000 to several borough groups, including the Queens Botanical Garden, the Queens Child Advocacy Program and the Queens Symphony Orchestra.

The Rotary Club of Flushing will also honor three of its members, John M. Gleason, Max Kupferberg and Kurt Weishaupt, as well as Vincent Gianelli, the father of one of the members.

The rotary is comprised of 40 men and women, who work in fields ranging from plumbing to finance to funeral homes. Steven Blank, the publisher of TimesLedger Newspapers, is a member of the organization.

Most of its members live in Flushing, Whitestone, College Point, Bayside or Nassau County.

The group typically donates annually to a variety of Queens organizations, including six local ambulance corps, the Flushing Town Hall and the Queens Center for Progress. Several of its members also serve in the Gift of Life, a program designed to pay for heart surgery for ill children from around the globe.

“The rotary is a family of do-gooders,” said Frank Macchio, the former president of the group and owner of the Whitestone-based Construction Services Company. “Service organizations like the Flushing Rotary are vital to communities.”

Robert Gallagher, funeral director of Flushing’s Martin A. Gleason Funeral Home and a member of the rotary club’s board of directors, said the organization created a network of business owners in the Flushing area.

“The boundaries of the club’s territory are exactly where our businesses are,” he said.

Business owners are constantly solicited for money, and some of the organizations asking for money may not be legitimate, Gallagher said. The rotary club assures its donors the money is going to good causes, he said.

“I think it’s true of every businessmen in the community. You are going to be asked for money,” Gallagher said. “But you can’t possibly know what’s going on unless you’re involved with the rotary.”

The club also acts as somewhat of a political organization. The club members have asked politicians to speak at their lunches and have been addressed by congressional representatives, state senators as well as Mayor Michael Bloomberg while he was on the campaign trail. The group, however, makes no endorsements.

As the years have progressed, the Rotary Club of Flushing expanded in scope.

“As our numbers have grown and our influence has grown, our effect on the community has increased about a hundredfold in terms of the money we have been able to raise and the activities we have been able to engage in,” Dent said.

The organization has managed to remain strong by recruiting younger business leaders, Dent said.

“We have continued to bring in a succession of young people who are committed to the idea of rendering services to the community,” he said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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