For the Freeport-Merrick Rotary Club, 2022 is shaping up to be another year of giving on multiple levels.
“We work on all levels, local, national, and international, to improve people’s lives,” said Jordan Pecora, chair of the club’s Public Image Committee and also Chairperson of Membership.
“Our motto is People of Action,” said club secretary and incoming co-president Emily Margulis, “getting things done, local or international. We’re the only charitable organization that’s in the United Nations. We have two nonvoting seats.”
Rotary International, the parent organization of the 65-plus clubs in Long Island’s Rotary District 7255, was founded in 1915 as a men’s charitable group, and now operates worldwide. Each individual club can partner with their village, city, town, or county governments to address community needs, or reach wider by connecting with the international groups.
“We also work with other nonprofits to try to help them,” said Pecora, “like organizations that help children get bookbags and school supplies. We also work with Legislator Debra Mulé’s team. We help out Mayor Kennedy and the trustees as well.”
Asking what the Freeport-Merrick Rotary did last year unleashes a list of charitable works achieved despite the pandemic.
“For our local organizations,” said Margulis, “we made donations and participated in some of their projects. For example, in June we donated two scholarships to Freeport High School seniors. In November, we held our own food drive, and on November 24 we delivered the food to the Food Cupboard and the Salvation Army Food Distribution Center on Church Street. Our members also did Salvation Army bell-ringing this past December.”
Pecora added, “We also gave face masks to not just the mayor's office and the Police Athletic League, but also to the Freeport Housing Authority for senior citizens who couldn’t get them. And we had tax workshops.”
The 2021 tax season was not put on hold by the pandemic, of course, so the club president, Certified Public Accountant Marc Rigueur, who operates CYBS Accountants & Tax Specialists in Freeport, joined with another Rotary member named Dave Denenberg, of the Cobra Consulting Group. The pair held an instructional workshop on Zoom to help with grieving real estate taxes, as well as more general tax information.
“We’ll be having two workshops in February,” said Pecora, “hopefully on Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. in the Merrick Library, and also on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Freeport Memorial Library. But as you know, these things could change in a heartbeat” – owing to the pandemic – “so we might have to do the workshops on Zoom again.”
Margulis also described exciting projects internationally. One to which the Freeport-Merrick Rotary donates regularly is Gift of Life, which funds cardiac and heart transplant surgery for children in third-world nations. Initially, the children would always be brought to the United States for the surgeries, where their planes would be met by local Rotarians. But now, hospitals are being made available, so that, for example, a Haitian child could go to the Dominican Republic to receive intensive care, rather than undergoing the visa process.
Forty-seven years after Rotary International started Gift of Life, child number 40,000 just received the life-saving surgery. The first Gift of Life patient, Grace Agwaru of Uganda, is now a Rotarian and an ambassador for the Gift of Life program.
Another overseas project is supplying school desks for children in Gyaboland, Liberia. And Soles 4 Souls, wherein new and gently used shoes are collected to reach those who need them, locally and internationally, is an effort spearheaded by a different Long Island Rotary.
The Freeport-Merrick Rotary is also continuing its ongoing efforts on behalf of Haiti, which suffered not only the assassinationi of its president on July 7, but a month later, a devastating earthquake. Meanwhile, a remote Haitian village is near to completing a well. These projects are under the leadership of Rotarian and former Rotary president Florence Marc-Charles.
All of these projects take money. In addition to member donations, the club will be holding another Popping for a Purpose drive, which partners with a popcorn firm to sell a variety of popcorn types on the Internet. A final event to look forward to will be a carnival during Memorial Day weekend, with mechanical rides and vendors, at Merrick LIRR Station, Parking Lot 5, off Sunrise Highway.
Those interested in joining or donating can find all the information needed at FreeportMerrickRotary.org.