Youngstown Rotary Club Revives ‘Put Kids First’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Rotary Club of Youngstown made a significant impact on the community in 2021 through fundraising, service projects and involvement in important projects affecting the city.

The club’s president for the 2021-2022 Rotary year, which began July 1, is Josh Prest. He succeeded Samantha Turner, who was the first Black person to lead the club since it was founded in 1915.

The Rotary year kicked off with a restart of the club’s signature Put Kids First mentoring initiative, says Linda Kostka, co-chairwoman of the communications committee.

The first project, which took place in the fall, was a citywide school cleanup day with students and Rotarians working together to beautify and clean areas around the schools, Kostka says.

Other Put Kids First activities paired a Rotarian with a student at Harding Elementary School.

A priority is expanding the program across more schools in Youngstown.

 “Expansion would increase the number of children that could benefit from a mentoring relationship,” says Deb Flora, who co-chairs the communications committee with Kostka.

Rotary Club members once again participated in Operation Warm, a project that provides brand-new winter coats to children in need in Youngstown city schools. Members and other donors raised $25,000, which provided 1,300 coats to children in the city of Youngstown.

The club holds in-person meetings inside the Wick Park Pavilion, an historic structure for which Rotarians raised $350,000 to renovate as its centennial project.

As it transitioned back to in-person meetings early in 2021, the club maintained the Zoom option, launched when public gatherings were limited during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, collaborating with other organizations, the club established Operation Pollination Mahoning Valley. The pollination program seeks to create a string of monarch butterfly waystations across North America to support butterfly migration and strengthen pollinator species across the continent.

“Given the breadth, severity and persistence of pollinator loss, it is critical to expand efforts to reverse these losses and restore pollinator populations to healthy levels,” Flora says.  

The pollinator initiative was a project promoted by Elayne Bozick, a past club president and long-time club member.