Rotary donates money to 23 nonprofits

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — Continuing its tradition of providing financial support to worthy organizations, the West Orange Rotary Club gifted nearly $20,000 to 23 nonprofit organizations at its annual Community Service Awards Luncheon at Mayfair Farms on June 16.

The funds for the awards, ranging in amounts from $350 to $2,500, were raised through the Rotary Club’s Independence Day fundraiser and its Taste of the World fundraiser, also held at Mayfair Farms.

“Each year organizations send us a letter about what they do and we read it over and select based on the need that they have and the service that they provide in the community,” Rotary’s Robbi Hershon said in a recent phone interview with the West Orange Chronicle. “For some of these programs, we are their only source of funding, and it’s very important to us to work with them so that the services will be available and they can keep serving the community.”

Hershon, who serves as the chairwoman of the Community Service Awards Committee, said many of this year’s recipients have received awards in the past, and that the organizations continue to serve a great need in West Orange and beyond.

The profound gratitude that each of the recipients have for the Rotary Club’s ongoing support was evident in their brief speeches as they accepted their awards.

Lisa Adams, who accepted on behalf of the Mayor’s Program for Individuals with Special Needs, told Rotarians that their support will enable the program to expand its services.

“Thanks to your generous donations, we are able to offer more programming to the older teens that go beyond recreational activities and begin to prepare them for life skills,” Adams said at the event.

As part of its ongoing sponsorship of the South American Animals Exhibit at the Turtle Back Zoo, the club presented an award to the Zoological Society of New Jersey.

Speaking at the event, Sangeeta Badlani of the Nikhil Badlani Foundation thanked the organization for its generosity and advised that the award will be used to fund scholarships for the Music for Nikhil program, which gives children the opportunity to study music, and will also be used to raise awareness about pedestrian and driver safety.

Accepting the award for the Historic Markers Initiative of the West Orange Downtown Alliance, West Orange historian Joseph Fagan expressed his gratitude for the support and shared that the initiative now has six markers erected, with more planned for the future.

The award for the Washington School Rainbow Program, a support group curriculum for children in grammar schools who suffer significant loss in their lives either through divorce or other painful transitions, was accepted by teachers Renee Wells and Sarah McIntosh.

“Thanks to your support of our work, we now have six teachers involved, and we have recently expanded our program to the St. Cloud Elementary School,” Wells said.

Similarly, Main Street Counseling Executive Director Steve Margeotes said upon accepting his award that his organization will now be able to expand its services to make a difference in the lives of an often forgotten population.

Downtown West Orange Alliance Executive Director Megan Brill presented the award to the West Orange Scholarship Fund, represented at the event by retired West Orange Superintendent of Schools Jerry Tarnoff. And the award this year was especially meaningful.

“To this day, I continue to be a member of the scholarship fund board of trustees, and the organization has been in existence since 1923 and giving out scholarships since 1925,” he said at the event. “This year the Badlani Foundation did a match challenge of $20,000 since their son Nikhil would have graduated this year. As a former educator, I am very proud of the money that we were able to raise to contribute to this.”

Other award recipients include: the West Orange African Heritage Organization, Friends of Thomas Edison National Historic Site, West Orange Police Athletic League, West Orange Community House, West Orange Arts Council, West Orange Animal Welfare League, West Orange Public Library, Dominican Republic Relief Organization, Saint Barnabas Medical Center Foundation, Change a Life Uganda, Rotaplast, Help the Children Hear, Gift of Life, Camp Merry Heart, Polio Plus and the Rotary Foundation.

Photos by Shanee Frazier