History of RCWP
Founding: The first Rotary Club was founded by Paul Harris on
February 23, 1905, in Chicago, Illinois. White Plains received its charter
on October 1, 1919 (number 540).
RCWP is part of District 7230, which has 47 clubs located in Westchester,
Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island and Bermuda. White
Plains is the fourth oldest club in the district: only New York,
Bronx, and Mount Vernon were chartered before White Plains.
In the Spring of 1919, William L. Leeney, formerly Chairman of the Board
of Genung’s Department Stores, was urged by a member of the New York City
Rotary Club to organize a club in White Plains. Bill thought well of the
idea and invited several local business and professional men to meet and
discuss the possibility of such an organization. All were in hearty
On the evening of June 4, 1919, eight Rotarians from New York met with
nineteen White Plainsmen at the Orawaupum Hotel, which was located at the
South West corner of Main and Orawaupum Streets. The necessary steps were
taken: officers and directors were elected, a schedule of initiation fees
and dues was adopted. Application for a charter was made to Rotary
International and was approved.
On October 1, 1919, Charter number 540 was presented to the Club
at an evening of entertainment in the ballroom of the White Plains Club, a
social organization occupying the second floor of the building at the
southwest Corner of Mamaroneck and Martine Avenue.
Meeting Places: The first meeting place was the Orawaupum Hotel.
The next place was on the second floor of a building at Grove and Main
Streets, which apparently was far from suitable as Bill Leeney dubbed it “a
terrible dump.” Again the meeting place was changed to the rear of Johnson’s
Saloon and Bowling Alley on Grand Street, opposite the former County
Courthouse. After that, for a time, meetings were held at the White Plains
Club, which occupied the second floor of the still-existing building on
Martine Avenue running from Court Street to Mamaroneck Avenue. Then it was
the White Swan Inn, a white frame house at the Corner of Main and North
Broadway, where the White Swan Apartments now stand. In the late twenties
the move was made to the newly built White Plains Belmont Hotel. We met
there the longest, through name and ownership changes and renovations (Roger
Smith 1933 and Coachman 1977) until our move to the Crowne Plaza in 1987.
Club Projects: Our first year was spent in getting well organized
and learning the principles of Rotary so during this period we laid the
foundation for a successful Club dedicated to Rotary ideals. There were many
programs designed to promote better fellowship and friendships among the
members of the Club.
Our first significant community project came in 1920 when we sent
forty-two underprivileged boys to the Westchester County YMCA camp
located on Great Captain’s Island in Long Island Sound, off the shore from
Port Chester. Each boy was provided with two blankets and enjoyed two weeks
at camp. This project was so successful that the following year 60 more boys
were sent. To help defray the expenses of this project the Club staged a
black faced minstrel show in which all of the members took part. This
production was given for two evenings at the Palace Theater, also known at
one time as Newell’s Theater, which was located at the rear of 199-201 Main
Street. This event in itself represented quite a sizable project.
Through voluntary contributions from the Club members in 1925 and 1926,
the Club was able to present to the White Plains Hospital a new Cadillac
ambulance that was badly needed, replacing an old Ford station wagon. Also
at this time, a Student Loan Fund was established to help worthy students in
need of aid to finish their education. The funds were invested in
“Guaranteed Mortgage Certificates” that were supposed to be the safest
investment available. However, these funds were wiped out in the depression
of 1929 with the collapse of the mortgage lending institutions.
Scholarships: In 1961, the White Plains Rotary Club, under the leadership of Dr. Morton
H. Flaherty established the Scholarship Foundation. A Club committee
oversees the management and investment of the capital of the fund; and
another Club committee determines the beneficiaries of the income of the
fund by interviewing college-bound applicants from the White Plains High
School, Stepinac High School and Good Counsel School, and distributing
grants on the basis of grades, school activities including athletics,
worthiness of financial requirements and all-around good youth citizenship.
Of the many scholarships given each year, three are designated to honor
particular individuals, to wit: Tom Bachman, a former White Plains Rotarian,
Jack Ruger, a Past District Governor and former White Plains Rotarian, and
Michelle Mooney, the daughter of our Past President Michael Mooney, as she
died at a very young age in a tragic amusement park accident.
Swedish Youth Orchestra: In 1981, Charlie Goldberger chaired an
event when a Swedish Youth Orchestra (sponsored by a Swedish Rotary
district) came to the United States to entertain at the RI Convention in
Chicago that year. They stopped in New York for 3 days. We were their host
and we met them at the airport, took them to Marymount College in Tarrytown
where we had arranged for them to reside, and arranged for a concert at the
United Nations which was well received. They also put on a joint concert in
White Plains with a local chorale group which was a big success and nice
fundraiser. One day, we split them up and they visited with Rotary families.
Of course, we also took them on a sightseeing tour of New York City.
Service Projects: Other local Community Service Club projects include:
- Building shelters for the Boy Scouts;
- Mayor’s Christmas Party for Children;
- contributing to “Educage” so they could purchase a van to transport
young people in the Educage program;
- providing eye glasses for needy children in the public schools;
- transportation of retarded children to the Atypical School on North
- transporting crippled children to various hospitals;
- purchasing a moving picture projector which our members took to
different children’s hospitals in the area and showed pictures to the
children several times a week;
- the annual sponsorship of Glen Loucks Games which attracts national
track and field competition at the White Plains High School;
- Fantasy Auctions;
- a Sports Memorabilia Auction;
- numerous Road races, and more.
Fundraising: One of our most successful fundraisers was the golf
match that was held for thirteen years (from the 1960s through 70s). These
exhibitions featured outstanding PGA tournament players, as well as some sports celebrities.
The event was held at Fenway Country Club and attracted nice crowds of
spectators for the event. Lowell Schulman was one of the great supporters of
This was followed briefly by a tennis classic starring leading
professionals under the sponsorship of AMF at the County Center. The proceeds from these events netted over $575,000 for the benefit of
the White Plains and St. Agnes Hospitals.
One of our most successful financial projects was the golf match
which was held for thirteen years. The exhibitions featured outstanding PGA tournament players, as well as some sports celebrities. This was
followed briefly by a tennis classic starring leading professionals under
the sponsorship of AMF at the County Center.
The proceeds from these events
netted over $575,000 for the benefit of the White Plains and St. Agnes
However, in the early 1980s, the emphasis changed from the hospitals as
the prime beneficiaries of our annual fundraising projects back to local
community projects and to redoubling our efforts to expand the scholarship
A few examples of the more recent recipients of our fundraising are:
Ecumenical Food Pantry, Hospice Program of the White Plains Medical Center,
Children’s Rehabilitation of St. Agnes Hospital, St. Agnes Hospital Chemical
Dependency Program, YMCA Youth Program, St. Bernard’s Head Start, White
Plains Day Care Association, Cage Teen Center, and YMCA Day Care Program. We
sponsored a silent auction and dinner honoring past president John Ramsdell,
netting $35,000 to benefit The Dickstein Cancer Treatment Center under
construction at the White Plains Hospital Center.
In 2002, we established an annual wine raffle and wine tasting fund
raiser held each Fall, with money going to local charities. In 2006 we held
a sock hop that raised funds for a Children's Abuse Prevention Program. In
2007 we sponsored an "Evening in Tuscany” gala dinner which raised funds to
assist the Westchester Hospice and Pallative Care Program.
Our local Club projects have also had an international reach. For
instance, under the leadership of Past President Manny Maslansky, we
sponsored a program (named “Contact Point”) of donating dental equipment and
services to Jamaica and other countries; we gave financial support for the
construction of a school in Calderon near Quito, Ecuador; transportation of
a laundry unit to Hospital Rosario Lacayo in Leon, Nicaragua; and assisted
in building shelters for outdoor school facilities in Spanish Town, Jamaica,
From 2000 through 2006, we donated two Class A fire engines and 2
ambulances to a city of Ecuador. All 4 vehicles were contributions to our
club through efforts of our members, led by Evan Delman. The value of these
gifts totals more than $1 million. We also provided the lifesaving clothing
called "bunker-gear" for the firefighters to wear while in the performance
of their duties; as well as the needed hose, adapters and appliances that
are used in fire fighting. Prior to our donations, the local firefighters
entered burning structures wearing little more than street clothes for
protection. Regular inspections are made to insure the equipment is being
maintained in good and effective operating condition, and to ascertain a
list of equipment that has been used beyond repair. In 2007 a team of 12
club members will visit to see first-hand how one Rotary club can improve
the lives of an entire community, half a world away.
Paul Harris Fellows: The global work of Rotary International is
funded in part by the Paul Harris Fellows Program, a program which permits
Rotary Clubs to contribute $1,000 to the Rotary Foundation in a person’s
name. The White Plains Rotary Club has distinguished itself over the years
in contributing and naming over 125 individuals as Paul Harris Fellows.
It has also distinguished itself in having several of its nominees
appointed Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholars (for graduate study
abroad), among whom are Andrew L. Morzello (later to become a White Plains
Rotarian, President of the Club and District Governor), Maria Kacandes and
In the 1970's, Past President Dr. Ralph Zimet initiated our Club’s
participation in the Student Exchange Program brought into our District by
the District Governor Jack Ruger. This is a student exchange program for
high school students whereby young people from participating countries spend
a school year as house guests of Rotary members and attend high school
classes here during their stay. Our native District high school students
chosen reciprocally to be student/guests abroad correspond to the number of
student/guests we host. These programs are excellent examples of Rotary’s
interest in promoting better international understanding. More recently, and
again under the initiative of Jack Ruger, we made major financial
contributions to the Polio Plus fund to support the Rotary International
inoculation project whose goal is to eradicate Polio worldwide.
Rotary District 7230: Our Club has also provided significant
leadership to our Rotary District. When the District was founded in 1954,
Past President Carl E. Waite (also Jack Ruger’s father-in-law) was selected
to be the first District Governor. In the years that followed, we have also
seen other White Plains Rotary Club members become District Governors, to
wit: Past President Normal Medlar (1967), Jack Ruger (1971), and Past
President Andy Morzello (1994).
Space limitations do not allow a history of the District activities.
However, we would be remiss not to point out that Jack Ruger earned the
sobriquet “Mr. Rotary” during his 40 years of dedicated service beginning
with the Katonah Rotary Club where he became President before the good
fortune of our Club acquiring him. He was the spirit, motivation, and
inspiration for countless accomplishments in the Rotary world as well as on
our local community projects, serving on International Committees,
sponsoring the Rotary Club of Sandys, Bermuda, introducing the first Rotary
constitutional amendment to admit women into Rotary written by the Rotary
Club of Upper Manhattan and introduced at the International Convention in
the early 1970's.
Other clubs “sponsored” by White Plains: We been active in
sponsoring clubs in adjacent towns... Port Chester, Scarsdale, Tarrytown,
Valhalla and, with Pleasantville and Katonah co-sponsored the Mount Kisco
Club. With Harrison we co-sponsored the Harrison West Rotary Club. In 2002,
we sponsored the new Somers club.
Anniversary Celebrations: Our Club’s 25th anniversary was
celebrated in grand style on June 7, 1944 at the Westchester Hills Golf Club
on Ridgeway. Our 50th anniversary was held at the White Plains Hotel on May
7, 1969. A beautiful program with a golden cover was prepared. The honored
speaker was Edwin Bracher, a Rotary Vice President from Houston.
Entertainment was provided by the Cog Wheelers (an itinerant Rotary vocal
group led by Past President Frank Lewis from our Club).
The 75th anniversary celebration took place on May 12, 1995 over a gala
dinner chaired by Jack Ruger at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, at which over 200
Rotarians and community leaders attended, and an elaborate souvenir album
was presented which contained City, County, State and Rotary International
The 85th birthday bash was held October 16, 2004. It was a fund
raiser to benefit Blythedale Children's Hospital. We exceeded our
fundraising goal, in addition to having a great time. See our
album for pictures of the 85th birthday bash.
The first women members of the Rotary Club of White Plains were
inducted in June 1987: Jo Falcone, Norma Mack, and Merna Popper. Jo Falcone
served as President in 2004-2005.
The Rotary Club of White Plains takes great pride in its rich history of
accomplishments, and the many services it has rendered over the years to the
local community and to the world community, and it is confident that it will
continue along this path.
Originally compiled by Jack Ruger, Rich Scanlan,
modified and updated by numerous Past Presidents