Recently B. J. and Patricia Mikkelsen invited people to their home and urged them to consider joining the Highland Rotary, saying it is all about friendship, love and service above self, stressing that he believes these are key ingredients needed to create a better world.
Mikkelsen said Rotary, “is an organization that helps people in need and not just in the town that you’re in, but world-wide. This is the only nonprofit worldwide organization that is represented as a permanent member of the United Nations.”
Mikkelsen referenced a handout entitled “Supporting Our Community, Nation and Our World” that lists many of the activities where Rotary has played a significant role: helping to establish the Hudson Valley Rail Trail along with installing a number fitness stations; building a Rotary pavilion at the rail trail head; awarding scholarships to graduating seniors and BOCES students; promoting Junior Achievement in the elementary school; supporting the Interact Club at the Highland High School; assisting needy families with food, clothing, coats and school supplies; helping Rotary International eradicate polio; contributing funds for Shelter Box tent homes that are sent to areas hard hit by disasters; supplying the Highland Fire Department with PPE equipment and helping with local seasonal events, to name just a few of their undertakings.
Mikkelsen said Rotarians, “are quite respected wherever we are and are held in high esteem world-wide. We are in nearly every country of the world,” estimating there are about 1.4 million Rotarians in 46,000 clubs.
Mikkelsen traveled to Berlin to help a local Rotary club there load trucks bringing emergency supplies to those in need in Ukraine and in some cases, handing out cash to refugees, “arriving in Europe with nothing.” In another trip, he was invited to Lviv, Ukraine by Col Litvin, head of the local Military Clinic and Infirmary, and met with his staff and doctors. Mikkelsen was focused on procuring more ambulances to transport wounded soldiers from the front line, a 20 hour drive each way. He also met with a local aid organization there that is working to house 7,000 Internally Displaced Persons [IDP] by converting shipping containers into mini-homes.
Mikkelsen highlighted for his guests a key benefit of belonging to Rotary; “embracing each other and having the friendship among us and being able to go to any member and say I really need help.”
Mikkelsen said the Highland Rotary meets every Monday at 7:10 a.m. at the Gateway Diner at 3579 on Route 9W, with about 40 members attending on a regular basis. “That in itself I think is so impressive.” Everyone is welcome.
Highland Rotary President Steve Laubach, who was an original member when the chapter was founded in 1984, said although every face has changed since that time, “the personality of the Rotary Club has never changed.” He said at their weekly breakfasts, “we have a blast and it’s like going there with your bothers and sisters, cutting up and having a good time. There is a lot of diverse talent in our club and we get work done around town; it’s amazing.”
Laubach said the Highland Rotary also focuses on the youth in town, with programs like Junior Achievement that is taught in the entire Highland Elementary School.
“We serve more than 500 kids a year, and we’ve been doing it for about 25 years,” he said. “We buy books for two grades each year in the elementary and middle schools that get used in the curriculum.”
Tony Marmo joined Rotary in 1985 and has served as a past president of the Highland chapter and as a District Governor of 7210, which encompasses Putnam, Dutchess, Columbia, Greene, Ulster, Sullivan, Orange and Rockland Counties. He said it is important, “to be concerned about your fellow brothers and sisters and your community and volunteering to help is a good thing to do. I give credit to the folks here tonight who are thinking about joining, and you could not find a better club than the Highland Rotary Club.”
Christine Giangrasso, who was also a President of the Highland Rotary and a District Governor, said, “Rotary is the heart of the world and your heart is there because you want to serve to help others in need and put a smile on their faces...We work very hard to embrace people and give them some peace in their lives, and that is really important.”
In closing, Giangrasso summed up Rotary in just a few words.
“We are there. It’s boots down, hands on, we’re ready to go,” she said.
For more information contact Rotary President Steve Laubach at 914-456-5148.