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Youngstown Rotary Marks 100 Years of Service

January 29, 2015

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Rotary International motto, “Service above Self,” defines the organization, and this week members of the Rotary Club of Youngstown are reflecting on a century of their club’s legacy of service.

The Youngstown Rotary, which spawned other chapters and was instrumental in establishing the Boys & Girls Club of Youngstown, the local chapters of the Better Business Bureau and the chamber of commerce, celebrates its 100 years tonight with the opening of an exhibit at the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center. The Rotary chapter was formed Feb. 1, 1915.

“It’s a very, very exciting time. I’m honored to even be a part of the conversation,” remarks Paul Garchar, Youngstown Rotary president.

The Youngstown Rotary is “a group of individuals coming together” to improve the community, the Mahoning Valley and ultimately the world though international projects the chapter supports, he says.

Garchar, executive director at the Potential Development program, has been a member for 13 years. “I was looking for an outlet to give back to the community. As a young individual, I benefitted from community individuals reaching out to my family and helping us in a time of need. So as I became an adult, I wanted to give back in some way,” he says.

Rotary Club members represent diverse professions such as bankers, nonprofit leaders and clergy.

“We’re leaders in the community and our focus is truly on making it a better place to live, to serve people in need and to do it without the need for recognition, just to make our community a better place,” Garchar says. He describes members as among the “most compassionate, caring” individuals he has come across. “It’s a joy to be part of that, individuals who give of themselves not for the recognition but just again to benefit people in need,” he reflects.

“The whole theme of Rotary, going back to its beginning, is to make connections and build friendships and be engaged in the community,” remarks Bill Lawson, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society and the Youngstown club’s secretary. Lawson worked with Rotarians a decade ago on an exhibit to mark Rotary International’s centennial and the Youngsstown Rotary’s 90th anniversary. That process, including going to meetings, meeting members and learning about its activities, made him want to be a part of the organization.

“Almost from the beginning, Youngstown Rotary has had a tremendous impact on the city and on the larger region,” Lawson says. “It brought people from different professions, industries and businesses together on a weekly basis to learn about each other, to become friends and get into meaningful community projects.”

The club’s first project — “and some might think the most important” — was joining with other Ohio Rotary clubs to form an alliance to help children with birth defects, Lawson says. “The Boys Club, which became the Boys & Girls club, was another very important thing we did, and that organization is an important part of our club’s mission today, which is to support education and the Youngstown City Schools,” he continues.

With such a “strong representation” from the business community, “it made sense for Rotary” to be involved in the formation of the local chamber of commerce, he adds.

According to a club history, in addition to Rotary clubs in surrounding communities, organizations the Youngstown Rotary was involved with forming include the area’s Better Business Bureau, American Red Cross and Salvation Army.

A Youngstown Rotary member for more than half of its history is Charlie McCrudden. Now retired, the former owner of McCrudden Heating Supply recalls that several of his neighbors when he was growing up were Rotarians. He learned about the organization from them and joined when they invited him in 1959.

Joining “was a good way to meet different people that you normally would not meet and have lunch with, and then they would become your friends,” McCrudden says.

Membership was adversely impacted when the local collapse of the steel industry in the 1970s. “We have a lot of steel executives and people that worked in steel processing who were members,” McCrudden says. “It was a shock and we didn’t know what would happen. But as you can see, the town adjusted to it.”

The organization has experienced many changes over the years, McCrudden says, including the admission of women into its ranks in the 1980s. “I must say that women are very helpful to the membership because they do a lot of the committee work,” he says.

Today Youngstown Rotary’s initiatives include what Garchar calls its “signature program,” Put Kids First, as well as Project Warm, which provides free coats to the needy in the community, the new Little Free Library and Families of the Fallen, a support group for families who have lost individuals to war.

The notion embodied by the Rotary motto is what appealed to Scott Schulick, vice president/investments with Stifel Nicolaus and a past president of the Youngstown Rotary, when he joined some 20 years ago. “It wasn’t necessarily about business networking, it wasn’t necessarily about getting business — sometimes those things were byproducts — but it was about that fellowship, the friendship and working with like-minded people who were about healing the community,” he says.

Schulick is part of the committee putting together events to celebrate Youngstown Rotary’s centennial and showcase its legacy in the community. In addition to tonight’s event at the Tyler Center, an anniversary luncheon will also take place tomorrow.

Featured at tomorrow’s luncheon will be Edwin Futa, former general secretary of Rotary International, essentially the organization’s immediate past CEO, Schulick says.

“Then Saturday night’s our party,” he continues. We’re looking forward to everybody dressing up and having a good time at the Youngstown Country Club to celebrate our 100 years.”

Pictured: Youngstown Rotary Club members Charlie McCrudden, Scott Schulick, Bill Lawson and Paul Garchar.

Copyright 2015 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.