STEUBENVILLE — There aren’t many things with staying power of 100 years, let alone 102, but the Rotary Club of Steubenville has that to its credit.
And such a milestone of more than a century of “Service Above Self,” the organization’s international motto, is cause for celebration.
The Rotary Club of Steubenville’s “100 + 2” anniversary dinner will be held April 26 at St. Florian Event Center, 286 Luray Drive, Wintersville, with hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m., a meal including hand-carved prime rib, baked cod, yukon gold honey-roasted potatoes, salad, bread and dessert. Tickets are $50 per person with April 14 the deadline to purchase them. Checks can be made payable to the Steubenville Rotary Foundation and mailed to P.O. Box 1485, Steubenville OH 43952. Another option is the website at https://steubenvillerotary.com.
It is open to the public, and anyone is welcome to attend.
Club President Mike Mehalik will extend welcoming remarks at the event that will include community and club Paul Harris presentations, an historical visitor, a champagne toast and a special guest with Stephanie A. Urchick, 2024-25 president of Rotary International, on hand as the featured speaker.
“The Future of Rotary” will be her topic.
A member of the Rotary Club of McMurray, Pa., Urchick will be only the second woman to become international president.
Urchick is partner and chief operating officer of Doctors at Work LLC, a consulting and training company. She holds a doctorate in leadership studies from Indiana University of Pennsylvania; is active on numerous community boards and committees; and has been honored by organizations, including Zonta International and the Sons of the American Revolution.
A Rotary member since 1991, Urchick has traveled to Vietnam to help build a primary school and to the Dominican Republic to install water filters. She studies several Slavic languages, has mentored new Rotarians in Ukraine and coordinated a Rotary Foundation grant project in Poland.
Urchick has served Rotary in many roles, including as a director, foundation trustee and as chair of the RI Strategic Planning Committee and the Foundation’s Centennial Celebration Committee. She serves on the Election Review Committee and the Operations Review Committee. She is a Rotary Foundation Major Donor and a member of the Bequest Society.
Event co-chairs Ross Gallabrese, immediate past president, and Kathy Musso are looking forward to the April observance, with preparations a natural springboard for revisiting the club’s history and reflecting on how the service organization has and hasn’t changed through the years.
“We actually started planning back in 2019 because our official charter date was April 1, 1921, but COVID got in the way,” Musso said in explaining the two-year delay for the club’s centennial dinner. “One hundred years is a long time for a service organization to exist when you get right down to it,” she said.
Gallabrese agreed. “There just aren’t that many organizations that can last for a hundred years, and for that to happen, I think that’s because the organization is doing something right — it’s involved in the community and what’s even more important, it’s willing to change with the times,” he observed in offering some examples of that, including who is in Rotary.
“In its 100 years, when the club first started meeting, women weren’t a part of Rotary at all, and since then, that’s all changed,” he began. “If you look at our club, we’ve had several female presidents — Sue Hershey was the first, Christine Hargrave, the late Suzanne Kresser, Carolyn Glaub, the Rev. Ashley Steele and Jodi Scheetz — so there’s been a lot of change that way,” he noted.
“There’s also been a lot of change in what the club has sought to accomplish, too,” Gallabrese continued. “Something people don’t realize is that the entire Easter Seals organization started as part of Rotary. When Rotary was formed, the charity was Crippled Children, and that actually became Easter Seals,” he said.
“And Rotary was 95 percent responsible for the eradication of polio,” he added.
“There are very few cases worldwide,” interjected Musso, “and that’s because of Rotary. We’ve raised a lot of money every year toward that, to provide vaccines, and people to go out in the fields and do that work, so it is really important,” she emphasized.
While the local club does its part to help on an international level, its local impact is equally important.
“There’s the overall involvement in the community,” Musso said, pointing out how the club has a longstanding tradition, for example, of hosting a Christmas party for local students, an event originally for children with handicaps. “We do it at Garfield East Elementary, and it’s kind of evolved over the years. We go to the school, and each child gets a gift, and we have Santa Claus there. It’s just a nice little event for the children,” she said.
The club awards dictionaries to third-graders, an experience that’s been humbling in some cases, Gallabrese observed, given that might be the first book some children can call their very own. Each year Rotary awards $1,000 Service Above Self scholarships to local high school students.
In April 1921, the local club was chartered as Club 881 in the Rotary International family — this after efforts in the late fall of 1920 when Coshocton Rotary Club members broached the idea of starting a Steubenville club in talking with local businessmen and professionals, according to a Herald-Star article in February 1980.
It would lead to the election of officers with Charles D. Simeral, the first president. Other leaders were John Beiswanger, vice president; Edgar C. Bower, secretary; and Howard Morrow, treasurer. Simeral, Beiswanger, John C. Belknap, Earl G. Richards and Harry D. Wintringer comprised the board of directors.
Meetings were held in the evening at the Fort Steuben Hotel, built one year earlier. “The evening meetings were unique,” the article notes,” because women were invited to attend. However, it soon became apparent the Rotary’s mission was not entirely social and women lacked interest in the club. Soon afterward, noon meetings were begun,” the article reads.
There were 25 charter members when the club was established — William J. Alexander, John G. Belknap, John J. Bernert, Edgar C. Bowers, Fred H. Clarke, Emmett M. Erwin, Everett Ferguson, John W. Hawley, Guy W. Jacobs, Harry J. Lane, Arthur C. Martin, Maurice S. McCoy, H. Earl McFadden, D. Walter Miller, Howard D. Morrow, Earl G. Richards, George W. Robinson, Charles S. Simeral, Carl H. Smith, George A. Spies, Harry Welday, Harry D. Wintringer, George E. Wiesner and Urban Wolpert.
In 1924-25, Simeral served as governor of the 22nd Rotary District which then comprised half of Ohio. Steubenville was one of 32 clubs in the district, according to the article. Come 1947-48, Steubenville was one of 52 clubs in the northeastern quarter of the state, which was District 158.
Club member Samuel H. Pollock served as district governor in 1956-57 when the district included Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Holmes, Jefferson, Mahoning, Stark, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties.
In the early years, the club meetings featured its membership sharing about their respective vocations but later gravitated toward “outside talent for the weekly speeches.” Many Rotary activities were social in nature, including ladies days and family meetings. Intercity meetings with counterparts in Coshocton, East Liverpool, Wheeling and Pittsburgh were common, the article notes.
“The club contributed to the financial campaigns of all local service agencies, maintains a Boy Scout troop, annually sends a boy and a girl from each of our local high schools to the World Affairs Institute in Cincinnati and also sends a representative to Boys State each year,” the article continues.
The direction of Rotary today is a topic Musso and Gallabrese contemplated.
“I think some of the direction (of the international) is expanding some of their programs,” Musso offered. “There were six areas of focus and now there are seven areas, and they’ve added environmental to that so they’re looking at things,” she said. “Some clubs participate in different aspects. Some clubs are strictly focused on one of those areas, and that’s how a new club has started.
Those areas include peace and conflict prevention/resolution; disease prevention and treatment; water and sanitation; maternal and child health; basic education and literacy; and economic and community development.
“Clubs have evolved,” Musso continued. “When I went to convention in 2017, you could already see how clubs were starting to change and form and look different. There are some clubs that are all strictly female today, which is just the opposite of Rotary’s beginnings, but they work strictly on women’s issues, women’s health, women in the workplace, educating women, so the clubs have changed,” she said.
“Sometimes in a community, there may be three or four clubs because they have broken into these little splinter groups and they focus on just one area, so Rotary has changed and probably will continue to change and as long as we’re members, we’ll probably see more change,” she said.
Gallabrese weighed in.
“The crux, the direction, has become very much more toward the service end because I know we talk about this all the time, one of the big tenants of Rotary was attendance at the meetings and you would throw people out of the club who didn’t come to the meetings,” Gallabrese, an admission that gave him and Musso a chuckle. “That used to be the big push. and now attendance isn’t something that Rotary International says needs to be recorded or needs to be a big part of the organization,” he said.
Clubs have changed how they meet, too.
“It used to be a regular weekly meeting, and we’ve gone to just the first and third Wednesday and that seems to suit our members best,” she said, noting COVID had some impact on their gatherings. “We met by Zoom during COVID. We got on that track really quick. We had a good group of members who were good about that, attending online at least to keep us in touch with each other, but I think what has happened is more from the employers’ side of allowing people to be part of Rotary or any service organization for that matter,” Musso said. The club meets at the JeffCo Event Center in Steubenville.
“It used to be you had companies require somebody was in Kiwanis, somebody was in Rotary, somebody was in Lions — you participated with United Way, but companies are not doing that any more. They don’t want to support those members doing it, they don’t want them leaving the work site,” she said. “That’s why clubs have started to change. Some have gone to evening meetings or breakfast meetings to try to make it conducive to when people can come and be able to be part of a community organization, but a lot of it has really come from the employers in the area — not only our area, but across the country,” she said.
Gallabrese said that the first tine he served as president of Rotary in 2005-06, “we had more than 100 members. Over 16 years, we’ve lost two-thirds of that.”
The roster is between 35 and 40 these days.
Anyone can be in Rotary and new members are welcomed.
“You want to belong to a service-oriented organization that is worldwide? We participate with projects worldwide and local — it’s good for fellowship, you get to network with other people in your community, you can pick a project, start one yourself and have Rotary support it. Some of our best projects have come out of a member who says, ‘Let’s try to do this,’” Gallabrese explained.
The two reflected on what the Service Above Self motto means to them.
“I think that’s looking at what we can do for others in the world — what else can we do? It’s just not our own little community,” Musso said. “We have a lot of good organizations in our community, but I look at Rotary in the bigger picture. Can we help someone have cleaner water? Can we get them a medical clinic that they don’t have? Can we see that they get vocational training to be able to support themselves? Many of the people in our club know I associate with a lot of Rotarians in Africa, and I see the good work they’re doing, and what they try to do in their communities, the same way I have a friend in South America in Peru and I see how many water wells his club has provided. We don’t think about those things here locally because we go turn on the tap, and we have clean water or we can go to school and it’s free. That’s not the case in most of the world, so I look at Rotary more at the international side of it and that’s where my service comes in,” she said, adding “It’s rewarding for me and the friends I’ve made. We video chat. We send each other messages. We mail gifts back and forth. It has become an experience, and I’ve got to meet many of them in person, which is amazing when you think about meeting someone from another country at the Rotary convention. That was by far the best experience I had at a Rotary convention — meeting those people I have video-chatted with and I have two little girls named after me because of that. Two little Kathleens named after me,” she said.
Rotary operates in more than 200 countries and regions.
“It’s always interesting to be able to see what a difference the club can make. Every year when we give out the scholarships to the high school kids, they’re truly appreciative. We always get thank-you letters,” Gallabrese said, noting students write an essay about their perspective of what Service Above Self means.
Money for the scholarships is generated in part of by fundraisers with an annual golf outing the main one.
The Rotary Club mentors an Interact Club at Steubenville High School which is led by teacher Scott Lane and boasts about 120 members. They do community service projects.
“At Christmas time they raise money prior to Christmas, and they take one student and provide Christmas for that student, they do the shopping, and they help us with our Christmas party now which is a great big help because they do all the shopping and all the gift wrapping, and they are there the day of the party and help with distributing gifts, but they’re very active,” Musso commented. “Scott has done a really good job organizing those kids and keeping them active.”
No matter where a Rotary club meeting is being held — statewide or abroad — it begins with “The Four-Way Test,” Gallabrese said of “the things we think, say and do. Is it the truth, is it fair to all concerned, will it build good will and better friendship and will it be beneficial to all concerned? Every Rotary Club whether in Steubenville or whether you’re in Kiev, (Russia), that meetings starts with the four-way test.”
The common denominator speaks to another uniting quality of the club — friendship.
“There’s the fellowship of those who participate,” Musso said of the group that includes men and women, retirees and the still employed.
“The club is always looking for members — people who want to be involved in the community,” Gallabrese said.
Aside from Mehalik, other officers are Todd Phillipson, president-elect; Randy Cottis, treasurer; and Larae Messer, secretary. Board members are James Baber, Charles Joyce, Leah Eft, Mike Zinno ad Barry Gullen.
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