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History of RCWP (1919-2006)

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 as of 2006 had 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 agreement.

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 show in which all 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 disabled children to the Atypical School on North Broadway; 

      transporting disabled 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 event.

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.

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 fund.

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, West Indies.

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 visited 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 Peter Kacandes.

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 Norman 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 proclamations.

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 photo album for pictures of the 85th birthday bash.

The 100th anniversary gala was held October 19, 2019, benefitting 4 organizations: WP Library, WP Youth Bureau, WP Hospital, Loucks Games. It was a splendid evening and we exceeded our funds goal by more than 100%! Pictures from the 100th Gala

Milestones: The first women members of the Rotary Club of White Plains were inducted in June 1987: Jo Falcone, Norma Mack, and Merna Popper. These were also the first women ever inducted by a sitting R.I. President. Jo Falcone served as President of our club in 2004-2005. Read the inside story about our club playing an important role in admitting women as Rotary members!

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, and then modified and updated by numerous Past Presidents

Founding Documents from the R.I. Archives

Application From Club For Membership

This is the one-page application submitted by the White Plains club on July 29, 1919. The application fee was $25.

Interestingly, the application contains a clause agreeing that " additional members shall be elected until after this club has been notified of its election to affiliation, and that thereafter not to exceed three (3) new members may be elected each month during the ensuing twelve months."

Wow! Restricting new members!

Charter List of Members

The application included a list of 25 charter members committed to starting the club.

This list is marked "CLOSED," apparently signifying that the membership recruiting is terminated until the club's application for affiliation with the IARC is accepted. (IARC was the International Association of Rotary Clubs, a name preceding Rotary International.)

Roster of Members Elected October 1, 1919

This is the official "Roster List of Charter Membership" issued by the IARC.

It looks like the same 25 names, with the same titles and addresses, but reformatted.

This list is clearly labelled "Club No. 540."

White Plains Club Links

Rotary International Links

The Rotary Club of White Plains is Club 5043, District 7230, Zone 32, Region USCB, Federal tax ID 13-6111471. The "Foundation of the Rotary Club of White Plains" is tax exempt, New York State #219346, tax ID 13-6165380. The Rotary Club of White Plains was chartered October 1, 1919, charter number 540. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1712, White Plains NY 10602. Website created August 2001.

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