Linda Ferrante takes the helm at New Paltz Rotary Club

New Paltz Rotary Club president Linda Ferrante (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Growing up, Linda Ferrante (then Haight) always remembered her grandfather being a proud Rotarian. “He was involved with a lot of organizations, but I remembered the Rotary as the one that helped people. It was something I always aspired to be,” she said, recalling the time when local landscaper Mark Masseo asked her to join the New Paltz Rotary Club. “I wanted to jump at the chance, but I always believe in finishing what I started, and I was on the [Elting Memorial] Library Board at the time.”

Once she finished out her term as a library trustee, Ferrante joined the approximately 35-member Rotary Club; and this past July, five years later, was elected president of the local chapter of the organization that has more than 1.2 million members worldwide. “On a global level, our focus has been to eliminate polio, which we’ve almost done,” she says proudly. “We also focus on trying to make sure that everyone has access to clean drinking water and helping new mothers and young children throughout the world.”


Through two of its members, Pascal Guerma and Bob Rich, the New Paltz Rotary has extended its reach all the way to Guiro, Africa, where they helped with seed money to renovate a school in the village. “We’re organization that believes in boots on the ground, and in this instance, Pascal and Bob both went on a mission to help rebuild that school and make contact and connections with a Rotary Club in that region.”

While it’s committed to causes around the world, the New Paltz Rotary also keeps its focus primarily on efforts to enrich its own community and provide assistance where needed. One of these projects, called “Fishes and Loaves,” is basically a Rotary program whereby members work closely with the local school system and social services to identify families who are struggling and provide them with gift cards to grocery stores so that they can buy the meals they need and holiday trimmings or some gifts to make the season less lean and stressful. To bridge the gap over the weekends when kids are not in school, the local Rotary also has members filling backpacks with food for the weekend that are given to children each Thursday. Often these are children who are on assisted lunch programs, but when the weekend comes, the Rotary Club wants to make sure that there are enough food and cooking utensils and fuel to make the food over the weekend. Those two programs alone require upwards of $15,000 in fundraising and grantwriting. “We have members who volunteer their time and expertise towards grantwriting,” she notes. “We also award $9,200 in scholarships for New Paltz High School graduates.”

“The more we raise, the more we can give,” she says, quoting Garvan McCloskey, a fellow Rotarian, also owner of Garvan’s Restaurant in the historic house on the New Paltz Golf Course off Huguenot Street, where the New Paltz Rotary meets every Thursday for lunch. “I love the motto, which is ‘Service above self,’ and the New Paltz club really walks that talk. I could not be prouder to be associated with this group of individuals. They are an amazing group of people who are always willing to work, to do their part and to help in any way that they can.”

To this end, the club — one of 60 in the region and thousands worldwide — engages in community events that also dovetail as fundraisers. “We do our photos with Santa each year at P&G’s [Restaurant], which is centrally located and always a lot of fun. Mark Masseo also came up with the ‘Touch a Truck” event at the fairgrounds that kids love.” This year, when the Lions’ Club disbanded, the Rotary took over organizing and running the annual New Paltz Halloween Parade. “There I was marching down Main Street on Halloween with our banner,” says Ferrante with a laugh. “But that’s also why I love the Rotary. If there’s a need, we try and fill it. We have money set aside for emergency situations that come up, like the cost of a hotel if there is a house fire, or medical expenses for someone who can’t afford treatment.”

There’s a golf tournament and a March Madness pool, as well as $1,000 shelter boxes, which are ten-person emergency tents equipped in case of a natural disaster that Rotarians will take to places locally and in every corner of the globe where needed for temporary assistance and housing. There is also the winter coat drive for Family of New Paltz and the big gala event at Novella’s each year for the Rotary’s “Win a Bundle,” where people buy tickets for $100, which earns them dinner and dancing and fun at Novella’s each November as well as a chance to win $10,000. They sell 300 tickets, which provides much better odds than Powerball, but also includes a community get-together and the knowledge that not only will you have a fun night out with friends and neighbors, but, win or not, that money is going toward a plethora of great causes. “Sandy [Ferrante, her husband and high school sweetheart] and I have been going to the Win a Bundle for years. They always auction off things, and it’s such a fun time! Novella’s does a great job working with us.”

Ferrante explains that the way the Rotary presidency works is that there is a one-year term limit. “You are a president-elect for a year, and then serve as president for a year, and then are a past president.” While past presidents are always helpful, Ferrante also went to a training this past March that helped her prepare to the taking of the torch. “It’s called PETS [President Elect Training Seminar], and you’re not obligated to go, but it was very helpful.”

While she’s the first to say that the Rotary (which only admitted women members starting in the 1980s) has already so many great programs and services established, one of her goals is to work on creating an outreach program for senior citizens. “We’ve done such a great job helping children in need in our community, but there’s also many elderly people in need, and after the holidays I’d like to team up with some people who have already begun working on this at the Methodist Church and with residents at Woodland Ponds [a senior citizen continuing care facility]. My parents live there, and there are so many talented, bright, able people in the Woodland Pond community that I think could mobilize and get an outreach program going.”

Mostly, Ferrante says that her job is to “just keep everything running and connect all of the dots. I’m honored to be associated with this organization, the people in the club and the programs and services we’re involved with.” While there’s always more room at the table for those who want to serve and become a Rotarian, Ferrante says, “The way you can help the Rotary is by coming out and supporting our events and fundraisers.”

Not only does the Rotary organization provide services to people around the world, but members also provide fellowship to one another. “If you’re visiting an area or different part of the country or world, or are new in town and you’re a Rotary member, you can just look up where the closest club is and where they meet and come and join them.”

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