Attending (11): Bill Dowd, April Dowd, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Jim Leyhane, Jim Butterworth, Ray Hannan, Debbie Rodriguez, Dick Drumm, Roberto Martinez, Rommel Tolentino.
Guests (1): Rick Van Vorst.
Program: Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Rensselaer County
Murray Forth introduced Rick Van Vorst, executive director of the club. Rick said he is 61 and has been involved with the club since he was five years old.
The club was founded 62 years ago as the Rensselaer Boys Club. It began accepting girls as member in 1988, one of the first such clubs in the country to do so.
The club now offers many daily activities after school and during holidays, including a summer camp on Burden Lake. In recent years, however, the club has experienced reduced funding from many sources, including being dropped by the United Way which, Rick said, no longer directs money to any youth organizations. More than $220,000 was lost.
Thus, ongoing fundraising is a must, especially in the face of the organization being required by the state to increase the size of its paid staff to raise the supervisor-to-member ratio. The club’s building is being rented out to various organizations when not in use, membership fees have been increased, bingo sessions are hosted, and a variety of fundraisers is held. Next up is the 3rd annual “A Taste of Elegance,” at Pat’s Barn in the Rensselaer Technology Park. Rick said they expect to make about $10,000 on that event, to go toward the club’s annual budget of approximately $500,000.
Rick cited a national survey done by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America that children with regular attendance at a club have better performances in school. Currently, his club handles about 60 children a day, who are bussed to the club by the Rensselaer City School District. They could handle up to 85 if funding is available. Between 40 and 50% of participating kids at the club come from outside the City of Rensselaer.The club has begun a meal program and also provides after-school snacks for the children. It also has established a cooking class and kids cook for other kids.
When asked what specifically, besides money in general, he would cite as the organization’s No. 1 need, the immediate answer was “Food.” Non-perishables, milk and other items are needed on a year0round basis because so many of the children come from poor homes and do not get enough food to eat on a regular basis despite free breakfasts and lunches being available at Rensselaer schools.
ROSE PARADE FLOAT – President Bill announced that fundraising has begun for Rotary’s 36th annual participation in the famous Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. No RI money is used for the project. All the work is done by volunteers and all funds come from donations from Rotarians and others. He asked that each of us considers a small donation because the TV exposure from the event will help Rotary’s push to raise its public image. Information on how to contribute is on the club website.
ROTARY FOUNDATION DINNER – A reminder that reservations still are being accepted for “Broadway Lights up Rotary,” the dinner scheduled November 14 at Proctors theater in Schenectady. Reservations can be made online at the District’s website.
ROTARY AT THE UNITED NATIONS – Bill, Murray Forth and Jim Butterworth will be representing the club at the annual event in New York City this Saturday, About 1,500 Rotarians are expected to participate.
WINTER SIMULATOR GOLF TOURNAMENTS – Murray announced dates for three such fundraising events this winter at Burden Lake Country Club. They are December 13, January 31 and March 7. The club also has asked to host us for dinner on November 20. (Note: That is the same date at which Shannon Romanowski will be inducted.)
NEXT MEETING: 6:15 p.m. Thursday, November 6, at Quigley’s. The after-dinner speaker will be Dr. Joy Meyer on the topic of “Pain: Don’t Want To Live With It, Can’t Live Without It.”