When Ross Schiller was sworn in as the East Meadow Kiwanis Club president in October 2016 at Westbury Manor, he thanked Kiwanis members for their contributions to the community.
“I do feel very special, but it’s not about me,” Schiller told the crowd. “It’s about the members of the club and their continuous efforts, which make this club that much more special.”
Schiller led Kiwanis for a year, organized holiday food basket efforts at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and helped out with East Meadow Chamber of Commerce events, like the annual Culinary Delights. He is the recording secretary of East Meadow Fire Department Rescue Company No. 5, and has volunteered for the department for more than 10 years.
“He’s a community man,” Kiwanis President Marcee Rubinstein said of Schiller. Rubinstein, who succeeded him this October, added that his enthusiasm for volunteering in the community is undiminished. “He’s a family man,” she said. “He leads by example. He’s just an all-around good guy.”
For all of his volunteer efforts, including advocating for the club’s Kamp Kiwanis, the Schiller is the East Meadow Herald’s 2017 Person of the Year.
His passion for helping others led him down a different path than the one he originally intended to take. “He had enrolled in a seven-year medical program at [New York Institute of Technology],” said his wife, Melody. Midway through the program, Ross realized he wanted to help others in a different way. “He wanted to become a lawyer,” Melody said. “But he wanted to be one of the good guys.”
So he switched careers, and earned a law degree from St. John’s University. He founded a law practice, Ross L. Schiller & Associates P.C., nearly 13 years ago, and now has offices in East Meadow, New Hyde Park and Flushing, Queens. He offers his services pro bono to members of the Women’s Coalition, an international organization that advocates for women’s rights to remain their children’s primary caretakers and protects them from abusive relationships.
“That’s something that is very, very close to him,” Melody said. “Because family is so important to him, he tries to help as many families as possible.”
She added that her husband ensured that both of their children, Hailey and David, learned the importance of giving back to others by participating in Kiwanis events. During last year’s holiday food basket sorting at East Meadow High School — an annual activity in which students and Kiwanis members sort food baskets to give to families in East Meadow — Schiller and his family helped sort more than 20 baskets. And Melody said that since Ross joined Kiwanis more than 10 years ago, he has made sure his family takes part in chamber and community activities as well.
“Since I’ve known Ross — which is about eight or nine years — I’ve always seen his wife and children involved in all projects,” Rubinstein said. “Whether it was a pancake breakfast fundraiser or a holiday basket sorting, he was always there. And he still is.”
During his presidency, she said, Schiller recruited a number of new members, and emphasized the importance of Kamp Kiwanis, which offers children who may not be able to afford camp — including those with special needs — exercise, educational development and emotional growth.
At the Chamber of Commerce’s Culinary Delights fundraiser in late September, Kamp Kiwanis was one of four causes featured on the event ticket to receive funds, and a total of $2,875 went to the Kiwanis Foundation, which funds the camp.
“When you look at the kids’ faces, it’s completely worth it,” Schiller told the Herald. “Every child deserves the right to make wonderful memories at summer camp. Those are the best times of their childhood. To know that the Kiwanis can provide these memories for a child is incredibly meaningful.”
Melody said that her husband has “a soft spot for kids,” which moves him to participate in an array of projects. He volunteers for the East Meadow School District’s EMS Week each year, showcasing a fire truck, taking part in drills and answering questions for children in the elementary schools.
“I first met Ross Schiller when he was a Tee-ball coach for the East Meadow Little League,” recalled Todd Weinstein, a longtime friend of the Schiller family. “He was great with the children, instilling a love of the game and a sense of fair play. Ross is one of those unique people in East Meadow you see everywhere around town. And when you do, it’s always with a kind word and warm smile.”
Weinstein added that Schiller is a regular at Temple Emanu-El events and PTA meetings as well as fire department happenings. “I don’t know how he does it,” Weinstein said. “He’s always the person people come to in a room, to be surrounded by his positive and caring spirit.”
“He always wants to see people thrive within the Kiwanis organization,” Rubinstein added. “He’s supported by everyone who knows him. He is an excellent choice for Person of the Year. It’s truly a privilege to know him.”