Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gerry Valk

Gerry Valk was a humanitarian who passionately helped others: He was a true Rotarian. Gerry’s commitment to disadvantaged students at the Essex Valley School and advocacy for high school student scholarships is a but a small part of his legacy.

Rotarians remembered Gerry and expressed their sentiments. Gerry was

“a true gentlemen”, a “great man, a great person, a great guy”

“a class act”,

“a beautiful soul who enriched many lives through his acts of kindness and generosity”

“He epitomized humanitarianism.”

“A fine example of a Rotarian.”

Gerry was all of those and more. He made a difference; he improved the lives of others.

Gerry will be missed. Rest in peace.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Season of Giving

Many people think of this time of year as the season of giving. Of course, for Rotary Club of the Caldwells members, the season of giving lasts all year long. Members have given in so many important and life-changing ways over the years. The Nairator is too small to list all recent accomplishments and projects over the last 12-months, but they include:

 Sponsoring a GOL mission in the DR funded by a multi-year commitment and an awesome Talent Show.

 Funding a room in the Caldwell College Autism Behavioral Center.

 Building a playground for young children in Caldwell.

 Completing the refurbishment of a North Caldwell field house facility.

 Furnishing a boat shed to Camp Merry Heart in addition to $3,000 for camperships.

 Awarding approximately $11,000 for scholarships awarded to HS students.

 Donating $7,000 to the Rotary Foundation.

 Pledging $6000 (and a laptop) to needy families through the Caldwell Human Ser-vices Department.

 Funding & Supporting Dominican Republic projects under Mike’s direction.

 Supporting Help The Children Hear.

 Putting on a Street Fair that has become part of the culture of Caldwell.

 Accomplishing too many smaller, impactful projects to mention.

RCC members are special, giving people who have obviously worked hard during this extended season of giving. Heart-felt comments during the recent special meeting held by President Jon captured the essence of this club; the comments demonstrated why membership in the RCC is, in and of itself, a gift.

In some ways, the RCC is reminiscent of dominant sports teams with “teammates” who work together to accomplish extraordinary things. Focusing on common objectives and working together is the key to continued success.

Looking forward, the sky is the limit in the upcoming and ongoing “season of giving.”

by Rotarian Tom Cocchiola

Monday, November 21, 2011

O Negative blood needed for local 4th grader!

One of our North Caldwell Gould School 4th graders is battling a brain tumor and just finishing up his second round of treatment. During these chemotherapy treatments, he may be in need of a blood transfusion.

Chase Morrone’s blood type is O negative. If you have this blood type and would be willing to donate a pint of blood on Chase’s behalf, please call Hackensack Medical Center at (201) 996-4818 as soon as possible. Please tell them that you are donating for Chase Morrone.

We also ask that you consider forwarding this message to your personal and professional networks. Chase has a rare blood type and we need to find a number of donors to assist him. Louis and Ann Louise would like to thank you all in advance for your assistance and for your continuing concern and support for Chase during this difficult time.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rotary International United Nations Day

Caldwell Rotarian Christy Berg with Rotary International President-elect Sakuji Tanaka

1200 Rotarians, Rotaractors, Interactors, Rotary Scholars and students, representing 32 countries and 22 U.S. states, participated in Rotary International Day at The United Nations on November 5. Rotary's relationship with the United Nations dates back to 1945 when 49 Rotarians acted as delegates, advisors and consultants at the United Nations Charter Conference. Today, Rotary holds the highest consultative status possible with the United Nations as a non-governmental organization.

The day emphasized the importance of the partnership between Rotary International, The United Nations, and other NGOs. The example Rotary has set with PolioPlus was highlighted as a model that can be replicated to tackle other global issues. Panels comprised of Rotary, United Nations, UN Agency and NGO speakers discussed common priorities: health, water and sanitation, literacy, youth and disaster relief.

16-year old Amina Hussain Bhatti gave a poignant reminder of the importance and relevance of The Four Way Test as she applied it to the denial of education to girls in her native Pakistan. RI President-elect Sakuji Tanaka recognized the commonality of the diverse audience. "We all join Rotary for different reasons," he said. "We stay in Rotary because it makes us happy and lets us bring joy to others".

Christy Berg
Rotary Club of the Caldwells

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Special Thanks to Gift of Life Talent Showcase Volunteers, Performers, Sponsors and Community Supporters

You did it!!! You gave of your heart and, because you did, 20-25 children in the Dominican Republic will have their hearts repaired this November. These children would not have access to the medical care they need to survive were it not for this surgical mission.

It was with great pride that The Rotary Club of The Caldwells presented a check for $30,354 to the International Children’s Heart Foundation (ICHF) as the sole sponsors of this pediatric cardiology and surgical training mission. The ICHF responded immediately, assembling a team of volunteer medical professionals from around the world that will perform the surgeries and train local staff at the Hospital Infantil Universitario so that care can continue to be provided long after they’ve gone home.

The mission is scheduled for November 5-19, 2011. The lead surgeon will be Dr. Rodrigo Soto from Santiago, Chile. Other teams members will be coming from Chile, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as from Ohio, Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, North Carolina and California. Initial screening of the patients will be done by local cardiologist and Rotarian, Dr. Juan Ramirez, who will send a list of potential candidates for surgery to ICHF. When the surgical team arrives, Dr. Ramirez will call the patients in to be screened by the ICHF team and surgeries will be scheduled and performed.

By unselfishly giving of yourself, you have truly given these children “The Gift of Life”. We cannot possibly thank you enough for all you have done to make this mission possible.

You can learn more about Gift of Life at And, you can learn more about The Rotary Club of the Caldwells at and about Rotary International at You have an open invitation to be our guest at one of our Tuesday lunch meetings so you can meet our members and see what Rotary is all about. We are always looking for new members who, like you, are committed to “Service Above Self”.

All our best,

The RCC Gift of Life Committee

Penny, June, Christy, Dianne, Tim, Geetha, Scott, Marco and April

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rotary District Governor pays special visit to Caldwell

Rotary Assistant District Governor Hal Mueller, District Governor Jim Allison and Rotary Club of the Caldwells President Jon Wohlgemuth. Photo by Janet Markman.

The Rotary Club of the Caldwells (RCC) held its weekly lunch meeting this past Tuesday, October 18, at the Cloverleaf Restaurant. This was a very special meeting as the newly elected District Governor, for Rotary year 2011-2012, Jim Allison, attended the meeting and presented his agenda as well as the goals he intends to achieve during his tenure. Assistant District Governor Hal Mueller was also present at the meeting.

Under his signature of “Sing Rotary’s Song” he spoke of his priorities to “strengthen our clubs, motivate our members, get more young people involved, build bonds between clubs and the district and help the people we serve to lead happier and healthier lives” And, by the end of his term , he wants all 54 clubs in his district, to be “effective, productive and thriving to better respond to the communities they serve”.

District Governor Allison also talked about the District’s responsibility to help the clubs develop good projects, good programs, good administration and good public relations, all important components of building and growing a successful club.

Jim has been a Rotarian with the Madison, NJ club for close to 16 years and served as its President in 2004-2005, Rotary’s Centennial year. He has been very active during his membership that included the construction of a playground and the development of a senior path and garden project. He is also known for his “attribute” of a great singing voice. He became the song leader of the club on the dayhe joined. At the district level, Jim and his wife, Susan were group leaders for the short term youth exchange trip to Japan in 2002 and Jim served as Assistant District Governor from 2008 to 2010. Jim is a five-time Paul Harris Fellow.

Jim and Susan currently reside in Easton Pennsylvania, moving there in 2007, after living in New Jersey for 34 years. Married for 43 years, Jim and Susan have two sons and are the proud grandparents of a beautiful granddaughter born in 2009!

RCC’s meetings are held each Tuesday at Noon at the Cloverleaf Restaurant on Bloomfield Avenue in Caldwell, NJ. If you would like more information about the club including becoming a member, please visit our website at:

by Dianne Woitkowski
Rotary Club of the Caldwells

Friday, June 17, 2011

Garrity and Machi Awarded Rotary Scholarships

The Rotary Club of the Caldwells presented two James Caldwell High School students with scholarships at the School Scholarship Presentation Program on June 8th. The students who received the scholarships were Christine Garrity and Serena Machi. The scholarships were given based on a high emphasis on community service and a lesser emphasis on extra curricular activities and academic achievement. "Community service is the very high priority function of Rotary and we are pleased each year to encourage and reward students with that same dedication, " said Gerry Valk, Rotary Scolarship Committee Chairman.
Serena and Christine were selected for the scholarships by a scholarship committee of Rotary who graded the many applicants from both the James Caldwell High School and the West Essex Regional High School. "The submissions were extremely close, " said Valk. " We were impressed to see how many students are extensively involved in community service in a variety of ways". The scholarship presentations were made by Zachary Steinhart, Rotarian and 2003 graduate of James Caldwell High School.
The scholarships will assist the students with college expenses by giving each student $1,000 each of the four years in college.

The Rotary Club of the Caldwells is committed to service both locally and internationally. For more information, visit To inquire about membership, please contact Tom Cocchiola at 973-226-2344 .

Monday, June 13, 2011

Irene Gibbons to be honored with "Service Above Self" Award

Irene Gibbons to be honored by Rotary

“Service Above Self” Award recognizes life-long commitment

by Christy Berg, Rotary Club of the Caldwells

Irene R. Gibbons, esteemed resident and former Mayor of Caldwell, NJ, will be honored by the Rotary Club of the Caldwells with a “Service Above Self” award on June 21, 2011 for her extraordinary and selfless life-long service to the community. Ms. Gibbons has tirelessly and immeasurably impacted lives in Essex County through her abundant gifts of time, energy, expertise and leadership through a multitude of civic and humanitarian organizations.

The “Service Above Self” Award, named for Rotary International’s motto, was created by The Rotary Club of the Caldwells in 1976. Over the years, the award had been selectively given to citizens in the West Essex area who distinguish themselves through their volunteer work in the community. “This was a way that the club could say thank you from the whole community to some very special people,” said Sam Kent, Rotary Community Service Chairperson.

“Irene Gibbons has enthusiastically and passionately contributed to the community in countless ways,” said Rotary President Tom Cocchiola. “She epitomizes ‘service above self’.” Gibbons explained, “My philosophy is to never say no to something if there is any possibility that I can say yes. Otherwise I might miss an opportunity to broaden myself.”

Ms. Gibbons sites two main influences on her commitment to serve. The first was her parents. “As a first generation American, I treasure the gifts that our country offers to all,” said Gibbons. “My parents instilled in my brothers and me the greatness of our country, while treasuring our European heritage. They taught me that it is a privilege to serve.” A second major influence was Sister Grace Regina, Dominican nun and educator at Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School in Brooklyn. “I think of her all the time,” said Gibbons. “She was so inspirational to all of the girls, teaching us the joy of service. She said ‘C’mon girls, we’re going to join the Legion of Mary and have some fun!’ ” Together they worked with orphans, the blind, and those less privileged than themselves.

After receiving her B.S. and M.S. degrees from St. John’s University, Ms. Gibbons had an accomplished career as a History/Social Studies Educator and Guidance Counselor in New York. She relocated with her family from Queens, NY to Caldwell in 1966 and accepted a one-year grant position as Program Coordinator for Women’s Counseling at Essex County College (ECC). Ms. Gibbons’ outstanding leadership of Project Women Help Yourself (W.H.Y.), which dealt with a variety of women’s issues, resulted in a permanent position and a distinguished 19-year career with ECC, where she was ultimately appointed Director of Academic Programs.

Irene Gibbons has served the Borough of Caldwell through her exemplary commitment to civic leadership, serving 3 years on the Environmental Commission, 9 years on the Borough Council, and as Caldwell’s first female Mayor from 1991-1995. During her tenure, Ms. Gibbons was instrumental in gaining support to build a new Essex County sewer plant. As Mayor, she helped Rotarian June Van Zandt found the first Rotary/Kiwanis Caldwell Street Fair. The Street Fair, which has grown to attract over 35,000 people annually, has become part of the fabric of the community and serves as a major fundraiser for both organizations.

One of Irene Gibbons’ proudest moments was being sworn into office as the Mayor of Caldwell on the steps of Grover Cleveland’s Birthplace. “It was a defining moment for me and my family,” said Gibbons. “My love of history has been a life-long affair and one which has greatly enriched me. It is my hope that my enthusiasm for the Grover Cleveland birthplace and our presidents has contributed to an awareness about the magnificence of the United States.”

During her 5 years as President and 20 years as Trustee of the Grover Cleveland Birthplace Memorial Association, Ms. Gibbons helped revive a once stagnant historic site to a vibrant museum that attracts over 6,000 visitors annually from around the world. She fought hard to become a Docent at the Birthplace, one of her most cherished roles. For the past five years she has shared her expertise and passion for our country’s history with visitors. “I have enjoyed every single minute,” said Gibbons. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet people of all ages, from every walk of life, from many countries around the world and from diverse communities across this country. It’s very exciting to live in a country with such great diversity!” The NJ Department of Environmental Protection has bestowed several commendations and citations on Ms. Gibbons for her tremendous contribution. Ms. Gibbons has also served as a Trustee of The West Essex Historical Society.

Ms. Gibbons was honored by the West Essex Chamber of Commerce in 1990 as “Community Leader of the Year”. She has volunteered for the United Way of North Essex for 30 years, serving 3 six years terms as Trustee. Through her early work with the United Way’s 32 local agencies, such as The Bridge and Family Services, Gibbons realized “that even though we live in a suburban area, the need in our community for these services is tremendous. But people are reluctant and often don’t want people to know they need help.”

Ms. Gibbons has also served as a Trustee for The Occupational Center of Essex County, working with people with special needs. She values the experience for exposing her to a wonderful group of people that she hadn’t known before. “It opened my mind to the fact that some people just operate a little differently,” said Gibbons. “Once you get out of your typical environment, a lot of wonderful things happen to you.”

A 25-year member of The Kiwanis Club of Caldwell, Ms. Gibbons was the organization’s first female member. She had wanted to join Kiwanis since she was a young child and her father explained that while Kiwanis did many good things, she couldn’t join because it was a men’s club. Determined, Ms. Gibbons sought membership as soon as gender based membership in Kiwanis began review by the Supreme Court. “It was difficult,” recalled Gibbons. “But, I did it for my daughters. And now I’m proud to say that I did it for my granddaughters, too.”

Ms. Gibbons has served as Kiwanis President, Lieutenant Governor, and, for the past ten years on the Kiwanis New Jersey State Board. For the past ten years, she has coordinated Builders’ Clubs in middle schools throughout New Jersey. And, she has been an active member of the Rotary/Kiwanis Street Fair Committee for 25 years. Kiwanis has recognized Ms. Gibbons with an international Hixson Award and a NJ District Carrington/Swain Award for her outstanding contribution and achievement.

Irene Gibbons shows no signs of retiring from her community service commitments. “I always tell people that I’ll have to live to be 150 years old or I’ll never get everything done!”

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Not a Golfer? Enjoy a country club dinner and support the Caldwell College Autism Center

Special Guest: CBS Television Meteorologist John Elliot to MC dinner.

The Rotary Club of the Caldwells has committed all money raised from their 40th annual Golf Outing to The Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis at Caldwell College. We are extremely grateful to those who have already registered to play golf or have become sponsors of the event.

A limited number of sponsorships are still available, providing an opportunity to showcase your company’s support for this important cause.

If you’re not a golfer, there is still an opportunity for you to join in the fellowship of the day and to support this important cause. The dinner following the day of golf is open to all and promises to be an enjoyable evening. Please consider joining us at Cedar Hill Country Club for a delicious meal and cocktails.

Sponsorships or dinner tickets can be purchased or donations made at

Rotary Donates Playground to Caldwell

by Teresa Akersten, Editor, The Caldwell Patch

The Kiwanis Oval will once again have a playground thanks to the generosity of the Rotary Club of the Caldwells.

The Rotary has donated funding for a playground which will be installed on the patch of grass between the Caldwell Community Center and Borough Hall just outside the entrance to the Kiwanis Oval field.

Caldwell's governing body passed a resolution Tuesday night accepting the gift. The value of the donation was not disclosed.

Rotarian Tom Vetter said the 40' by 40' playground will be completely fenced in. The equipment will be suitable for children ages 3 to 8.

The installation will take place in about two weeks, added Rotarian Sam Kent. Kent said the project is expected to be completed in time for the Caldwell Community Center's campers to use.

A playground once stood at the far end of the field, but was removed before a turf field was installed at the Kiwanis Oval last year.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

40th Annual Golf Outing to benefit Caldwell College Autism Center - Opportunities still available for sponsors, golfers, diners and donors

by Dianne Woitkowski, Rotary Club of the Caldwells

Special Guest: CBS Television Meteorologist John Elliot to MC dinner

On June 16, the Rotary Club of the Caldwells will host its 40thAnnual Golf Outing. This anniversary year is special because all proceeds from the Outing will be used to support the efforts of the newly opened Caldwell College Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis, located on the Caldwell College campus. We are also privileged to have Caldwell local John Elliot join us for the event!

Autism, a growing and serious health concern is a developmental disability that affects 1 in 110 individuals and their respective family members nationwide. In New Jersey, the numbers jump to 1 in 94! New Jersey ranks number one in the number of Autism diagnoses reported annually.

The Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis is a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to helping children and their families affected by Autism in Northern New Jersey. A team of highly-trained professionals provide the most effective treatments currently available. It should also be noted that Caldwell College is the first College in New Jersey to offer a doctoral program in Applied Behavioral Analysis with a concentration in Autism.

The Rotary Club of the Caldwells has a long history of supporting local causes in the West Essex community and beyond. Celebrating 60 years of service, the Club raises funds in several ways including: various fund-raisers hosted throughout the year, member and individual contributions, and managing a volunteer staffed consignment shop in Caldwell.

As Sam Kent, Long time Rotarian states: “This event always has and continues to support local causes only!” If you would like more information about Rotary Club of the Caldwells, please visit our website at If you are considering becoming a member of the Club, please contact Jerry Smith, Rotarian at for membership information.

This year’s Golf Outing promises to be better than ever! The event will be held at the Cedar Hill Golf and Country Club, located at 100 Walnut Street in Livingston, NJ. Registration and lunch begins at 11:00AM but the Club strongly encourages all golfers to pre-register online at: . There will be a Shotgun Start at 1:00pm. The Cocktail Hour begins at 6:30. An auction, dinner and golf awards presentation will follow. One feature of the Outing will be a hole-in-one car giveaway. There are several auction prizes being offered including a 3 day/2 night weekend golf vacation in the Catskill Mountains at a private four bedroom home situated on 10 acres. This package includes 2 rounds of Golf at the beautiful Shepherd Hills Golf and Country Club in Roxbury, NY. A complimentary “foursome” will also be auctioned off for a day at the beautiful Seaview Golf Resort located in Galloway, NJ. Several other prizes are included in the auction as well.

There are a number of sponsorship opportunities available including a “pin” sponsorship that puts your company name on a “hole flag” at a very affordable price of $350.00 and you get to keep the flag!

If you are interested in a pin sponsorship, please contact Rotarian Tom Vetter at: for more information as soon as possible because there are only 18 pin sponsorships available and they are already selling quickly. Other sponsorships are available as well and the contributions range from $250 to $10,000 with respective acknowledgements given during the dinner presentation, appropriate sponsorship signage will be displayed prominently and perks including complimentary golf fees included for some sponsorship levels. If you would like more information about purchasing a sponsorship for you or your business, please contact Tom or you can go to and download a golf/registration brochure for more information.

Those who cannot attend but wish to make a tax deductable donation to support Rotary in its Fund-raising efforts may do so, on the website, or mail a check payable to Rotary Club of the Caldwells, PO Box 98, Caldwell, NJ 07006.

Jon Wohlgemuth, President Elect, Caldwell Rotary Board of Directors and Golf Committee Chairperson says: “Spring is finally here so let’s get out and play some golf, and in doing so, support a most worthwhile cause – Autism.”

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Gift Begins with Local Performers

May 7 Talent Showcase benefit will save children’s lives

On Saturday, May 7, 15 local performers will showcase their talents to help the Rotary and Interact Clubs of the Caldwells raise money for a pediatric cardiology surgical mission. Tickets are available at the West Caldwell Public Library, on line at, or at the door. The curtain goes up at 7; doors will open at 6. Tickets are $10 and $7 for students. Children 5 and under will be admitted free.

Rotary chose to host the Talent Showcase as a way to involve the community, giving people an opportunity to directly help save the lives of children through the Gift of Life program, whether by donating their talent or attending the show. All proceeds from the event will be used to sponsor heart surgeries for children who would otherwise not have access to the medical care they need to survive.

Since 1974, Gift of Life is credited with saving over 11,000 lives, including 18 children in the Dominican Republic whose surgeries were sponsored by the Rotary Club of the Caldwells in 2007. The club hopes to raise enough money through the support of the community to save approximately 25 children.

The response to the club’s call for auditions was tremendous, attracting a diverse group of talented performing artists, both established and emerging. The showcase will be a wonderful mix of rock, pop, gospel, Broadway and classical music, with some magic and a few surprises mixed in. The show will be enjoyed by people of all ages and is a special way for families to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Recording artist Stephanie White said that her band, The Pfilth Harmonic, is “always eager to be part of local efforts for a greater cause. These children need help and what better way to unite and educate people than through music.” Garrett Bell agrees, “We are here to support the kids through music”. Bell and his GNGR band mates Jason Inguagiato, Owen Daly-Smith and Aidan O’Connor will bring a mix of punk, rock, alternative and pop to the stage.

Many of these artists have donated their talent for other causes in which they believe over the years. Don’t Look Back’s members Bobby Norgard. Olivia Polci, Ryan Peter, Danny Spadaro and Patrick Wu, have helped raise money for the people of Darfur and The Children’s Specialized Hospital. Spadaro and Erik Parian, winner of the “Rutgers Idol” competition, will also perform as Cousins Live. And, Patrick Wu will give us a taste of his award winning beatboxing. “Every human being deserves the gift of life, “ said Wu. “Everyone, no matter where they come from, should have the opportunity to have their wishes realized and their dreams come true.”

When he’s not performing off-Broadway, for Fortune 500 companies or groups like Chicago and Earth, Wind and Fire, professional magician David Corsaro donates his talent to Habitat for Humanity and the Lions Club. Nicole Garamella, who volunteers regularly at West Caldwell Handicap Canteens and will grace the stage with a selection from Phantom of the Opera, explains “To actually make a difference in someone’s heart makes me proud of the gift that God has given me.” Accomplished gospel artist, Johnnie Jones, agrees, “By the grace of God, I am able to help these young people experience that gift of life, that they may prosper and be in good health, even as their souls prosper. ”

The audience will also be treated to performances by veteran artists of all genres. Barbershop and acappella singer Anthony Procino has performed with the Morris Music Men, Dapper Dans, and The New Jersey Connection. After six years with the US Navy Band, Pianist Cass Gilbert performed with Jimmy Santo's Latin Band, The Hecklers, The Silver Starlite Orchestra and Tune Toppers. Staci Beth Block, a member of the Bergen County Players, has years of theater performances in NYC and NJ to her credit and will give us a taste of cabaret. Professional actor Alex Oleksij has spent over twenty years on stage in a variety of musicals. “Children are our greatest natural resource,” said Oleksij. “Rotary and Gift of Life should be saluted and supported in their ongoing efforts to give children the full, rich lives they deserve.”

A diverse group of solo performances will include guitarist and music instructor Mark Caccioppoli who can be enjoyed at local coffee houses or his regular “Sunday Gig” at Notre Dame Church. Lenny Meranus, known as “Livingston Leo” to members of his band, has toured both locally and with international acts such as Los Lobos. Leon Richardson, who has multiple concert choirs, swing choruses and musicals to his credit, will bring soulful R&B to the stage. We’ll also hear an acoustic performance by David Ciaro, drummer for Goth-Punk outfit, Blackpool, and the band, It Ain’t Pretty, who can be seen at bars up and down the NJ coast. And, Jordan Whiting, an extremely talented fifth grader from Washington School, will impress us with a Hayden piano concerto.

Rotary members have been extremely moved by the outpouring of support from these artists, local business sponsors such as The Animal Emergency and Referral Center and North American Eagle Construction, and members of the community. They have adopted the motto “The Gift Begins Here…with YOU” because the ability to save a child is within everyone’s reach.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Borough of Caldwell flies Rotary flag

Photos by Janet Markman

Caldwell's Mayor and Council honored the Rotary Club of the Caldwell's 60th anniversary by raising the Rotary Flag in front of the municipal building yesterday. Mayor Ann Dassing thanked the club for their sixty years of community service. Rotary President Tom Cocchiola reaffirmed the club's commitment to local service, citing Rotary's support of Caldwell's Human Services Department and Community Center among the current projects underway.

Left to Right in photo: Jonathan Barrett, Jerry Smith, Council Peter Murray, Scott Lamond, Christy Berg, Tim Blattner, Paul Marinaccio, Mayor Ann Dassing, Councilman John Coyle, Councilman Doug Piazza, Gary Goodman, Dora Hillyer. Tom Vetter, Rotary President Tom Cocchiola, Sam Kent, Bob Markman, Gerry D'Emilio, Borough Adminstrator Paul Carelli, Kevin Hersh

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rotary Supports Caldwell College Autism Center - June's golf outing will help raise money

In the middle of Autism Awareness Month, Caldwell College held a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of the Advanced Behavioral Analysis (ABA) center last Friday. Dr. Nancy Blattner and Dr. Sharon Reeve spoke to a large group of benefactors and guests. Our club was represented by current President Tom Cocchiola and Past President Kevin Hersh. Dr. Blattner specifically thanked major benefactors, including the Rotary Club of The Caldwells, for contributing and making the ABA center a reality.

Dr. Sharon Reeve cut the ribbon with the help of the first child enrolled in the program. There are currently five children enrolled but college plans to reach full enrollment in about a year. A professional staff member was recently hired to help the ABA center progress toward its goal.

Our pledge to the ABA center, which will be fulfilled by funds raised from the 6/16/11 golf outing at Cedar Ridge Country Club, supports a “mock” medical exam room that will be used to familiarize children and educate them about what to expect when parents take them to the doctor.

The sign shown is displayed on the wall outside the medical ex-amination room. Similar signs are displayed throughout the ABA center commemorating donations by other organizations and individuals.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Caldwell Rotarians welcomed by Rotary in Staten Island

Dianne Woitkowski and Sam Kent accompanied Dr. David Gurian for a Help The Children Hear (HTCH) presentation to the Mid-Island Rotary Club in Staten Island. The presentation was well received by Marguerite Fiore (club vice-president) and the entire club. The club expressed interest in getting involved in the project.

Dianne and Marguerite exchanged club banners during the visit, a Rotary tradition.

HTCH began about 12-years ago after Amanda Abbiate returned from a Rotary trip to Argentina. After returning home, Amanda told her mother Katherine, who was an active Rotarian, about a serious hearing disability affecting children in Tucuman, Argentina.

David learned about the problem and eagerly volunteered his expertise and knowledge in the audiology field. He and Katherine launched HTCH as a 501c3 charitable organization. Under their direction, HTCH sponsored missions and has supplied hearing aids to children in countries such as Argentina and the Dominican Republic.

David took control of HTCH after the unfortunate passing of Kathe-rine several years ago. Since then, David almost singlehandedly con-tinues to run and expand the program, which is an official District 7470 project. David routinely receives hearing aids and donations from around the world. HTCH recently received a grant from the Ro-tary Foundation that will bring hearing aids to children in the Philip-pines.

HTCH is a remarkable and inspirational example of how each of us has the ability to improve the lives of people around the globe.

Thanks and congratulations to David and others who contribute to the success of HTCH.

Tom Cocchiola


Rotary Club of the Caldwells

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Will you help the children hear? by Diane Lilli, The Jersey Tomato Press

Will you Help the Children Hear?

Local Doctor David Gurian recently spoke in New York about his work with the not-for-profit cause “Help the Children Hear”.
Gurian, whose office is in West Caldwell, is an expert on hearing loss and the director of “Help the Children Hear”.

After joining his local Rotary Club in the Caldwells, he decided to help give back more than just money or time to others - hearing.
Now, this organization sanctioned by the Rotary Club International, brings hearing aids to children in numerous countries in South America, and also the Philippines and the Dominican Republic.
Gurian reconditions used hearing aids that are sent to needy children.
Hearing loss is often undiagnosed - and common. Click here to read a previous article “A Loss for Words: Do You Have Hearing Loss?” from 10/20/10.

If you would like to help out this cause, contact Dr. Gurian at
Here is the information from the “Help the Children Hear” website.

"Help the Children Hear Inc." a Rotary International Foundation project established, designed, and created by Rotarians. This humanitarian effort is a result of relationships bonded from the Rotary Youth Exchange program and serves as an example of the Rotary network combining the resources to make a difference. The Rotary Club of Tucuman Sur, Argentina, The Blairstown Rotary Club, Blairstown, NJ, USA, and The Rotary Club of the Caldwells, Caldwell, NJ, USA had initiated a joint project to address the lower income hearing impaired children of Tucuman Province through a Rotary International matching grant. This project has now become a tax exempt 501 (c)(3) corporation.

Address the hearing needs of children and others around the world.
Provide the resources to continue to aid lower income hearing impaired children.
Give hope and support to all hearing impaired children around the world.
Encourage the mainstreaming of hearing impaired children into the hearing world.
The immediate objective is to treat this physical deficiency at an early developmental stage, enabling these children to fulfill a vital, effective role in their country's future. Without intervention, they have little hope because hearing is vital for the normal learning process and full integration into a productive society. These hearing devices will equip them with the tools required for such growth. With the opportunity made available by our joint effort, these children will have a real chance to stop a cycle of illiteracy and poverty.

Address the problem at its most basic level
Determine what must be done immediately
Fill the need as soon as possible
Develop an on-going supply of hearing products (hearing aids, batteries and service)
Collect and Recycle old hearing aids
Send Us Your Unused Hearing Aids
Collect old, used and unused hearing aids (regardless of size, condition or age).

Send these aids to:Help The Children Hear ?PO Box 98 ?Caldwell, NJ, 07006??Or directly to:Help The Children Hear, Inc. ,c/o Starkey Laboratories, Inc. ?PO Box 9457 ?Minneapolis, MN 55440 (note: account #Z3678)
Credit will be placed into the Help The Children Hear Inc. account.
As credit of $50 is reached, we will be able to purchase 1 new reconditioned hearing aid for a child in need.
This will be bolstered with cash donations from other organizations, corporations and individuals worldwide.

Your assistance and desire to share in this dream can make it a reality. Please help by collecting old hearing aids and set up hearing aid drops in your communities, companies and places of public access. When submitting donations of any kind for Help The Children Hear Inc., please identify the name, corporation, civic organization, in celebration of or in whose memory. This will be noted in a tax-exempt thank you letter.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Talent Showcase will give children the Gift of Life

Tickets on sale now at

Saturday, May 7, promises to be very special. The evening will provide an opportunity for members of our community to help save the lives of approximately 25 children and to have a lot of fun doing so.

The Rotary and Interact Clubs of the Caldwells have joined forces with a group of talented local performing artists to produce The Gift of Life Talent Showcase at James Caldwell High School’s Center for Performing Arts. All money raised from this showcase will be used to sponsor a pediatric cardiology medical mission that will provide surgeries to children with life-threatening heart defects who would otherwise have no access to the medical care they need to survive. The surgical team will also provide training to local physicians so that some cardiac procedures will be available to children who need them after the mission has ended.

The Gift of Life program, made possible through the fundraising efforts of Rotary clubs worldwide, is credited with saving almost 12,000 children’s lives since its inception in 1974. In 2007, The Rotary Club of the Caldwells sponsored a mission to the Dominican Republic during which surgeons performed 18 successful cardiac procedures. The club has also sponsored children to come to the United States for surgery. These experiences have inspired club members to raise even more money for a larger mission. Rotary and Interact hope to raise $40,000.

“We have a fabulous group of performers donating their time for this event,” said Director and Rotarian Penny Potenz Winship. “It will be a great show!” The program includes a wide range of performances by classical, popular, gospel and rock musicians, as well as dance, magic and a few surprises mixed in. All Rotarians, Interact and community members working on the showcase are volunteering their time and talent so that all proceeds can go toward the mission.

Advance ticket purchases are strongly recommended, but remaining tickets will be available at the door beginning at 6pm on May 7. The show will begin promptly at 7. Tickets are $10 and $7 for students. Children 5 or under will be admitted free of charge, but must have a ticket. Purchase tickets on line today at Those wishing to make a tax deductible donation to support this Gift of Life mission may also do so at this website or by mailing a check payable to Rotary Club of the Caldwells/GoL, PO Box 98 Caldwell, NJ 07006. Every dollar will help!

Businesses or organizations wishing to help make this surgical mission possible may do so by becoming sponsors or by purchasing an ad in The Showcase Journal. Please contact Dianne Woitkowski at 973-896-7236 or Christy Berg at 973-600-9607 for additional information.

To learn more about The Rotary Club of the Caldwells and its commitment to service both locally and internationally, please visit To inquire about membership, please call President Tom Cocchiola at 973-226-2344.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sixty Years of Service Above Self

By Christy Berg, Rotary Club of the Caldwells

When Eugene Hartnett and 20 local businessmen founded the Caldwell Rotary Club in 1951, they had no idea that it would grow into such a dynamic organization, making a difference locally, nationally and internationally. “When we began, it was really a social club having interesting lunch meetings, “ recalled Warren Goodman, Charter Member. “Nothing was planned for community work. I continually prevailed upon the membership to get active as a service club and I’ve proudly watched them slowly become a true service organization.”

“This is not the Rotary of our fathers and grandfathers - a social club that does some good,” said Jon Wohlgemuth, President-elect and second generation Rotarian. “Our mission is to provide support to make our community and the world a better place through hard work and commitment. We make some great friends along the way.”

“Our club has changed for the better in terms of talent and commitment,” said President Tom Cocchiola. “When I joined 23 years ago, the club seemed to be an ‘old boy’s network’. Today, women and men across all age groups are well represented, major contributors, and integral to our success. Our club is vibrant and alive. Our members dream and plan big things and then they make them happen.”

Early Years

Club members in the mid-1950s and 1960s were creative in their efforts to raise money to support local projects. Some, like the Becker’s Farm Train Ride, ‘From Here to Eternity’ Theater Party, and ’63 World’s Fair Trip succeeded beyond expectations. Others, like the 1955 broom, whisk broom and light bulb sale were less successful and left members with a seemingly lifetime supply of bulbs of all sizes. Nonetheless, the early Rotarians raised enough money to sponsor a number of initiatives each year.

‘Operation Trash Can’ began in 1954 and continued for years as the club purchased and maintained litter bins in Caldwell and West Caldwell. ‘Clean up days’ were organized to coincide with the beginning of the school year and corresponding increase in litter. Rotary funded and built two bus stops along Bloomfield Avenue, one of which club members refurbished in 2010 as part of Caldwell Beautification Day.

Rotary’s commitment to local youth was demonstrated through the creation of a scholarship fund, sponsorship of a Girl Scout Troop in Caldwell, and contributions to the West Essex Camp Fund, Caldwell Recreation Youth Center, Student Council, Music Department, Midget Baseball, and Camp Wyanoke. The club funded the Police Department’s distribution 3000 safety pamphlets to children of the area.

The club expanded its support of military personnel and veterans in the 1960s. Gifts were sent through The American Legion to soldiers in Vietnam and donations were made to veterans hospitals and disabled veterans. This commitment has continued throughout the years, with supply boxes sent to soldiers in times of war, gifts to veterans provided to The American Legion, and support given to those who have been injured in service.

The Organization Evolves

The 1970’s saw a transformation of the club into a true local service organization that was responsive to the needs of the community. With fundraising efforts improving, financial support was expanded to include Family Service, Senior Citizens, Caldwell Welfare Department, and other charitable organizations. Rotary played an active role in the Bicentennial Committee and various youth programs.

Rotary was now able to support local emergency services. The club funded training in family crisis intervention for the North Caldwell Police Department and purchased bulletproof vests for officers in Caldwell, West Caldwell, North Caldwell and Essex Fells. And, in 1987, the club responded to an attempted child abduction at Lincoln School with the donation of two-way radios to police officials for use by crossing guards in Caldwell, West Caldwell and Essex Fells. “When the attempt was made, I realized that school crossing guards have no way to communicate with the police or fire department or anyone who could help in an emergency,” said Sam Kent who led the initiative with Victor Steinhart.

In 1976, Kent led the creation of a Rotary ‘Service Above Self’ Award. For 35 years, the award has been given to citizens in the West Essex who distinguish themselves through their volunteer work in the community. “This was a way that the club could say thank you from the whole community to some very special people,” said Kent.

Women Join Rotary

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in May, 1987 opened a door, allowing women to join Rotary for the first time since 1905. That year, June VanZandt was the first woman in The Caldwells to walk through that door. While there were mixed feelings among the membership, VanZandt quickly dispelled any concerns. She was named Rotarian of the Year in 1990 and was elected the club’s first female President in 1991.

“Accepting women in the club added a very special dimension,” said VanZandt. “Women are givers at heart, have a can-do attitude and are adept at organizing to get things done to enhance the lives of others. We have many talented women in our club today and I’d encourage others considering Rotary. In addition to the reward of service, membership gives professionals a higher profile in the business community.”

The Rotary-Kiwanis Caldwell Street Fair

One of VanZandt’s most significant accomplishments was the establishment of the Caldwell Street Fair in 1991. In its 20th year, the street fair has become a celebrated community event for over 35,000 people on the first Sunday of each October. It is also a major fundraiser for both the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs. Proceeds are invested back into the community and into the work of volunteers on national and international humanitarian projects.

“Our collaboration demonstrated the value of both Rotary and Kiwanis and that we could work together toward the betterment of our community,” explained VanZandt. Today, a joint Rotary-Kiwanis Street Fair Committee begins work each November to plan the following October’s event.

Willing Hearts Touches Lives

Twenty years ago, Pat Kiernan and a group of women committed to helping others opened a small consignment shop in Caldwell. Through their hard work and the support of The Rotary Club of the Caldwells, that shop has grown to accommodate over 3200 consignors and is managed by a staff of 45 regular volunteers and hundreds of interim volunteers.

Kiernan was honored with a ‘Service Above Self’ award in 1997 for her initiative, her work with Family Service, and her commitment to the community. She became a Rotarian that same year. “My father was very active in the Montclair Rotary, so all my life I heard about the meaningful work they did, but women were not in Rotary then,” said Kiernan. “When I was approached, I was encouraged by memories to join.”

While Willing Hearts is the Rotary club’s largest fundraiser, it has become much more. It is a place of community, where people come not only to consign or shop, but also to visit with their favorite volunteers. Local residents can depend on Willing Hearts for immediate help in times of need. Over the years, Willing Hearts has quietly helped many individuals and families faced with personal trauma through financial assistance or donations of furniture, clothing or household goods. Faithful high school Interact volunteers are rewarded with “stewardships” and other young people who are committed to service are supported. The volunteers also manage outreach projects, such as their current collection of prom gowns to be distributed by a local nurse to high school girls in Haiti. Last year’s prom gown drive for Essex Valley Regional was so successful that Willing Hearts brought in a tailor to teach the students how to alter gowns for resale.

It is through these personal touches that Willing Hearts volunteers make the greatest difference in peoples lives. Rotary members cherish these volunteers and are extremely proud of all that they do.

Golf Outing

2011 also marks the 40th Anniversary of the Rotary Club of the Caldwells Golf Outing. This significant annual fundraiser was conceived by Alan MacWright and Sam Kent and continues to help the club deliver on its mission of service and support of charitable causes.

This year’s golf outing will be held on June 16 at Cedar Hill Country Club in Livingston. Proceeds will be donated to the Caldwell College Center for Autism and Applied Behavioral Analysis.

The Rotary Club of The Caldwells Today

While fundraising is hard work, the consistency of proceeds from Willing Hearts, The Street Fair and The Golf Outing give the Rotary Club a strong financial base from which to work. “Our financial stature helps us tackle projects that are beyond the reach of most clubs,” explained Cocchiola. “We’re better prepared and better able to make a huge difference.” Wohlgemuth concurred, “We have ventured out of our comfort zone and have taken on much bigger and more far reaching projects.”

The club’s focus has been on community projects, local assistance to organizations, families and individuals, emergency response to local, national or international disasters, and international humanitarian projects.

Strong organizational capability also enables the club to support individual members in causes they embrace that are aligned with the Rotary mission. “We have the talent, and the financial strength, to accomplish incredible things and enable new members to conceive virtually any type of project and achieve success,” said Cocchiola. The club has rallied to support Gerry Valk in his work with the students of The Essex Valley School and Mike Kambourakis in his humanitarian missions to the Dominican Republic.

Local Impact

It is often the simple and unpublicized acts of kindness or financial support to local families or individuals in need of assistance that Rotary members site as most rewarding. Over the years, members have consistently helped those faced with illness, trauma, or personal hardship. The club also regularly partners with the Caldwell Welfare Department, Willow Tree, and other organizations that directly improve the situations of others.

The Rotary Club of the Caldwells has always provided support to local emergency services agencies. Recent donations include funding for an emergency vehicle and life support gear for the West Essex First Aid Squad, a Confined Spaces module for rescue services in North Caldwell, and speed signs to calm traffic in West Caldwell.

Civic initiatives have also spanned the history of the club. Rotary recently funded the lighting of Grover Cleveland’s Birthplace. The scoreboard at Mountain Field in North Caldwell, the Community Events Board in West Caldwell, and the flag poles in front of civic building in each of the Caldwells, as well as in Crane Park, were all Rotary donations. A project is currently underway to renovate the field house and restrooms at a sports field in North Caldwell.

Support of local youth has continued since the club’s inception. Each year, Rotary awards several scholarships. The club also sponsors youth exchange students, ambassadorial scholars for study abroad, and personal service projects such as those led by Eagle Scouts. The Dictionary Project provides all elementary school children in the area with a dictionary to use throughout their school years. For the past two years, dictionaries have been distributed by Interact, Rotary’s service club for high school students.

Local seniors have also been important to the club, whether donating equipment for their center or helping to serve meals on holidays.

Since 1974, the club has been actively involved in Camp Merry Heart, a camp in Hacketstown for children with special needs. Rotary supports the club financially and through volunteer service. In recent years, Caldwell Rotarians built camp amenities, constructed buildings, and donated athletic gear. Each year, members do spring clean up and help host a day of festivities for the campers.

Emergency Response

Rotarians in Caldwell have a history of reacting quickly to emergency situations around the world. In recent years, the club has made donations to help victims of the earthquake in Italy, the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and earthquake in Haiti. Individual members have purchased ‘ShelterBoxes’ that supply an extended family of up to 10 people with a tent and essential equipment to use while they are displaced or homeless.

The club’s most significant response effort, the Haiti Relief Project, continues today under the leadership of Kevin Hersh who was recognized in 2010 with a ‘Service Above Self’ award. Through the efforts of Caldwell Rotarian Mike Kambourakis and the Dominican Republic Rotary, the capability for shipping, storing and distributing supplies on the island was already well established when the earthquake hit. Locally donated food, water, medicine and supplies were distributed to remote, devastated areas of Haiti and the Dominican Republic within 48 hours. Recognizing the club’s unique capability to reach those in need while many were still scrambling to respond, Hersh went on a major campaign for donations. Through continued outreach efforts and a tremendous response from the community, relief shipments continue weekly to Haiti and the Dominican Republic and have helped thousands of people. Mike Kambouraukis regularly travels to the area to ensure that supplies reach the hands of those who need them most.

Gift of Life

The Rotary Club of the Caldwells embraced the international Gift of Life program several years ago, realizing their ability to raise money to save children’s lives. Since it’s inception in 1974, the Gift of Life program has been credited with saving the lives of over 11,000 children. Funded through the efforts of Rotarians around the world, Gift of Life saves children with life threatening heart defects by providing necessary surgeries and state-of-the-art cardiac procedures. These procedures are often unavailable in developing countries or, where limited availability does exist, are often out of reach for many families due to their high cost.

In 2007, the club sponsored its first pediatric surgical mission to the Dominican Republic. Jerry Smith recalled his experience, “Sitting in the waiting room, you could look into the eyes of the parents and feel their pain and anxiety, not knowing if their child would make it through. We did some really tough surgeries. While all of the children we helped survived, there were some on the list that we just didn’t get there in time for.”

The club has also sponsored children coming to the US for surgery. Gary Goodman said, “My proudest moment was when we picked up a 5 year old boy from Kennedy Airport and arranged for him to have the open heart surgery that saved his life.”

The experience has moved club members to act again. The Rotary and Interact Clubs of the Caldwells will be hosting a Gift of Life Talent Showcase on May 7 to raise money to sponsor another pediatric surgical mission in 2011. Auditions will be held February 28 and March 2 at JCHS.

Help The Children Hear

Another way the Rotary Club of the Caldwells helps children worldwide is through a program initiated by Dr. David Gurian. Since 2000, Help the Children Hear has been collecting old hearing aids and using the parts to build working aids. They are fitted for and distributed to children who are hearing impaired, but unable to afford a hearing aid. In some poor countries, children with hearing impairments are unable to attend school. Enabling their hearing begins their path toward education, employment and the ability to lift themselves from poverty.

“I am proud to be helping children with hearing loss in places I never heard of before Rotary,” said Gurian. “It’s gratifying being part of a worldwide organization that allows me to help change the lives of people I will never meet.”

Rotary International – Foundation

Rotary International is the world's first service club organization, with more than 1.2 million members in 33,000 clubs in 200 countries. Rotary club members are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally under the motto ‘Service Above Self’. Rotary is non-political and non-religious. Regardless of nationality, culture or belief system, members of Rotary are involved for the benefit of others.

Since it’s inception in 1951, The Rotary Club of The Caldwells has supported Rotary International (RI) through the financial contributions of its members to the RI Foundation. RI has bestowed the honor of ‘Paul Harris Fellow’ on dozens of Caldwell members over the years. Paul Harris Fellows, those recognized for significant contributions, are the backbone of The Rotary Foundation. Their contributions account for 80% of the over $80 million raised annually to support work to eradicate Polio, provide clean water, fight hunger, reduce child mortality, improve basic education and literacy, and promote peace and conflict resolution.

New Members Welcome

The Rotary Club of the Caldwells is working to attract an even more diverse group of professionals. Rotary uses a classification system to establish and maintain a vibrant cross-section or representation of the community's business, vocational, and professional interests among members and to develop a pool of resources and expertise to successfully implement service projects.

“It’s all about the classifications,” explained Sam Kent. Having a diversity of vocations gives a club a really good mix of people that bring different perspectives, ideas, and expertise to the table. I’d like to see more trades people join.”

“I’d like to get more hands on deck so we can accomplish more in less time and generate more ideas about what our community needs,” said Kevin Hersh. “I’m especially inspired by our volunteers in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s who are looking forward and at what our town needs tomorrow.”

Members describe the club as being comprised of people with good hearts who are willing to work to make a difference in their community and throughout the world and who like to have some fun along the way. Rotarians are known for high professional and ethical standards. They are proud of being part of the larger fabric of the world through Rotary International.

“We are a club made up of regular people who collectively do some pretty amazing things,” said Jon Wohlgemuth. “We are a reflection of our community,” said David Gurian. “Rotarians can be trusted to do the right thing for those in need, be they our neighbor or a child in another part of the world.”

Bob Siedler, who joined Rotary in 2009, shared his experience. “Regardless of what is going on in my personal life, I leave our weekly meetings feeling good about myself and the world we live in. The spirit of the people in the club is contagious and reaffirms all that is good in the world. Be prepared to be blown away!”

“I never really understood the quality of the club until I joined,” said Penny Potenz Winship. “People who work for the good of the whole are something to behold. I can honestly state that joining Rotary is one of the most fulfilling choices I’ve made.”

For more information about The Rotary Club of the Caldwells, contact Tom Cocchiola at 973-226-2344 or visit For more information about Rotary International, visit