The Honorable Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of the City of New York, made the President’s/Paul Harris Dinner for the Rotary Club of the Bronx a memorable one for all attending. He swept into the room and graciously posed for photos with all comers.
Outgoing President Barry Fitzgerald introduced the Mayor whose warm acknowledgement of the good works of the Bronx Rotary Club is partially excerpted below:
“... for tonight, I just want to say that, like the Yankees, the members of the Rotary Club of the Bronx are real champs in my book.
I mean that in all sincerity.
I am so impressed by the fantastic impact that you continue to have, not just here in the Bronx, but all over the world, with projects like: reconstructing a school in Nigeria; providing safe drinking water for a village in India; helping women in Afghanistan rebuild their country; offering aid to students in South Africa; and bringing children from the Dominican Republic, Albania, and other countries here to New York for life-saving heart surgery.
In that spirit, I want to join in applauding someone you’re honoring tonight. She’s the extraordinary division chief of pediatric cardiology at Montefiore Medical Center, who has performed so many of those “gift of life” operations that you’ve made possible: Dr. Daphne Hsu.
Your “person-to-person” diplomacy – which has taken many of you to distant lands to help oversee your projects there – makes you the best ambassadors for New York, and for America, that we could possibly have. You truly live up to Rotary International’s theme for this year: ‘Building Communities, Bridging Continents.’
Of course, a lot of the good work you do is much closer to home, right here in the Bronx. And I want to salute you for: awarding scholarships to deserving Bronx students; providing much-needed supplies to their schools; and helping care for the ill, the elderly, and our young people, too.
Those generous acts make a huge difference. And in line with that, let me also recognize tonight’s other honoree: Serafin Mariel – who as the founder of New York National Bank invested in the future of the Bronx when others were walking away, and who today chairs the Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund that provides grants to much-needed youth and social services in this borough. That kind of service really preserves New Yorkers’ quality of life”.
Barry Fitzgerald welcomed everyone to the President’s/Paul Harris Dinner, recognized all the Rotarian dignitaries in the room and then went on to speak briefly about the Bronx Rotary Club’s newest project initiated by Bea Castiglia-Catullo, the Mobile Soup Kitchen. It is a joint project between R.A.I.N., The Rotary Club of the Bronx and the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. He announced the recent good news of donations from the Knights of Malta and from the District 7230 Foundation.
Bharati S. Kemraj from Vishnu Mandir, Hindu Temple acted as Mistress of Ceremonies and she got the program started with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Rev. Susan Chadwick, an inspiring rendition of our National Anthem by Bronx Opera’s Leslie Swanson and an invocation by Rev. Bill Kalaidjian.
PP Cheryl Simmons-Oliver prefaced her introduction of the keynote speaker by saying that Rotary did not admit female members until 1987. That is significant because the keynote speaker was newly installed District Governor Helen M. Lynch. She noted that not only have women joined Rotary, but they have quickly risen to the top as has DG Helen Lynch.
DG Helen Lynch spoke a little bit about what Rotary is all about for the benefit of all the non-Rotarians in the room. She said that it is very special because you have to be invited to join and that the Bronx Club is particularly special because it was the very first Club in the District to invite a woman to join.
Rotary International is the world’s largest service organization with over 33,000 Clubs in 200+ different countries. Rotarians are business professionals who do their best to use their specific talents to help their local and global communities.
DG Helen Lynch said that the new RI President Kalyan Banerjee’s theme for his term is “Reach Within to Embrace Humanity”. It is meant to encourage each Rotarian’s introspection to learn what it is one wants to do before taking Rotary’s message to other countries. She also believes his message is one of revealing the “childlike” innocent and unselfish quality that has always remained within us.
In closing DG Helen Lynch lauded the Bronx Club as one of the “most dynamic Clubs in District 7230”.
President Barry Fitzgerald and Rev. Bill Kalaidjian spoke about Bill Gallo, Daily News cartoonist, the first of the Paul Harris Fellow recipients. Mr. Gallo was a personal friend of both of them and they remembered him as a warm and engaging man. He was awarded the Paul Harris posthumously, but his passing was so recent and so sorely felt by his family that they could not attend the dinner.
PP Cheryl Simmons-Oliver introduced Paul Harris Fellow recipient Serafin Mariel, New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund and CEO/Chairman, Marace Associates, Inc., Financial Advisory Firm. Cheryl spoke about his history with revitalizing the Bronx when the “Bronx was burning”. He was director of the Bronx Overall Development Corporation and he worked hard to replace the burnt out tenements with quality housing, economic development and job creation. DG Helen Lynch presented Mr. Mariel with his Paul Harris.
Ms. Kemraj brought Robert Donno forward to introduce the next Paul Harris recipient because he was instrumental in beginning the Gift of Life program. He introduced Dr. Daphne Hsu, the Division Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at Montefiore Medical Center. This was her second Paul Harris medal.
President Barry Fitzgerald, Incoming President Debby Appel and PP Edward Hicks also received a Paul Harris medal.
Barry Fitzgerald also presented Secretary Rev. Susan Chadwick with a bouquet of flowers in recognition of her service in the past year and because the Club is sad to be losing her as a member because she has been transferred to a new church in LaGrangeville, NY.
DG Helen Lynch presided over the change of leadership from Barry Fitzgerald to Debby Appel and the installation of the new Officers and Board of Directors.
The very full agenda was interspersed with a delicious antipasto cocktail hour, fine dinner and dancing to music provided by Entertainment & Sounds Unlimited Inc.
Many thanks go out to all who attended and all who worked so hard to make the evening a resounding success.


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..President's dinner invite cover


Bill Gallo

Bill Gallo
Daily News Cartoonist

Serafin Mariel

Serafin Mariel
Chairman of the NY Yankee Council

Dr. Daphne Hsu

Dr. Daphne Hsu
Division Chief of Pediatric Cardiology
Montefiore Medical Center