Monday, August 16, 2010

Rotary Service Day at Camp Merry Heart

In the hills of Hackettstown, Camp Merry Heart has provided recreation and respite opportunities to over 30,000 children and adults with disabilities or special needs since 1967.

For almost three decades, Rotary District 7470 and the Rotary Club of the Caldwells have supported Camp Merry Heart financially and through volunteer service.

“I’ve been a Rotarian for 23 years and the Caldwell club has supported Camp Merry Heart as long as I’ve been a member,” recalls President Tom Cocchiola. “I can honestly say that it’s one of the best uses of the money we raise because of what we’re doing and who we’re doing it for.” Rotarian Keith Calandra agrees. “I’ve got a real soft spot for the kids. I give them everything we possibly can give them.”

Calandra has led Caldwell Rotary’s support of Camp Merry Heart for the last seven years. For this year’s Rotary District Service Day on August 11, he coordinated volunteers Tom Cocchiola, Dora Hillyer, Paul Marinaccio, Sam Kent, Jonathan Barrett, June VanZandt, Christy Berg , Bob and Janet Markman to help host a day of festivities for the campers. The team sponsored and ran The Moonwalk and served a barbeque dinner to 250 campers, staff and volunteers.

Other Rotary clubs from the district sponsored and ran refreshments stations, games and activities such as karaoke, therapy dachshunds and a dunking booth. “It was a wonderful and rewarding day,” said Berg. “Seeing the children smile with such happiness made me know that we were doing something very special.”

The Rotary Club of the Caldwells also funds $3000-$4000 in Camperships each year, helping pay the way for children who couldn’t otherwise attend Camp Merry Heart. “These one or two weeks make a difference not only to the child, but also to the parents,” explained Cocchiola. “Imagine how much work is involved in care giving. This gives them a much needed break.”

In addition, the club has donated and helped build amenities for the camp. In recent years, Caldwell Rotarians built a fire pit, created a butterfly garden, fenced in the playground, laid the foundation for the infirmary, constructed an outdoor chapel, and purchased benches. Last year the club donated athletic gear including fishing poles, soccer and baseball equipment and life jackets. Each year a team of does spring clean up, maintaining the trails, furniture and equipment.

Camp Merry Heart’s programs help people with special needs build confidence, cultivate a sense of independence, increase social skills, build relationships and reduce disability related health consequences. To learn more about Camp Merry Heart and watch a video featuring their campers, visit

To learn more about The Rotary Club of the Caldwells and their commitment to service both locally and internationally, please visit or call 973-226-2344.

Submitted by Rotarian Christy Berg

Monday, August 9, 2010

Rotary helps WEFAS purchase Protective Gear for Volunteers

When an emergency call is made to 911 in Caldwell, Essex Fells, Fairfield, North Caldwell or West Caldwell, the volunteers of the West Essex First Aid Squad (WEFAS) will be there to help - any time, any day. The squad of 80 trained volunteers responds to an average of 7-8 calls each day.

To provide emergency service to five communities properly, WEFAS needs volunteers and up-to-date, well maintained equipment. Most
of their funding comes through donations from local residents, business and civic organizations. “We are extremely grateful to our community donors who are there for us every year,” said WEFAS President John Taylor. “It is through their donations that we are able to safely respond and to help save lives."

The Rotary Club of the Caldwells continues to support WEFAS this year by donating $2,500 toward turn-out gear. This personal protective equipment is clothing is worn by the WEFAS volunteers in emergency situations. "The safety of the volunteers is extremely important," said Past Rotary President Kevin Hersh. "I cannot even imagine our community without our emergency service network. WEFAS volunteers are part of this network and their safety is paramount."

The Rotary Club of the Caldwells has a long heritage of supporting WEFAS. In 2009, the organization donated all proceeds from their annual golf outing – over $12,000 – to help WEFAS purchase a new rescue vehicle. "It is an honor to contribute to WEFAS. They are a remarkable group,” said Tom Cocchiola, Rotary President. “By supporting WEFAS, The Rotary Club of the Caldwells is supporting both WEFAS and our communities. To the volunteers of WEFAS, The Rotary Club of the Caldwells says THANK YOU!"

During the presentation of the check on Tuesday, John Taylor expressed his appreciation to the Rotary Club of the Caldwells.
“Organizations such as Rotary have been very generous to us through your donations and we thank you.”

To learn more about volunteering for WEFAS or to make a contribution, please contact
973-403-8568 or visit To learn more about The Rotary Club of the Caldwells and their commitment to service both locally and internationally, please visit or call 973-226-2334.

Submitted by Rotarian Christy Berg