By Dawn M Chiossi
Community. It is the place in which people live, and every person on the earth has one. It is our surroundings, our day to day environment, filled with familiar people and places. How many times have people chosen a community based on the location, neighborhood, school system, or any other number of matters? Community is more than the town in which people settle, it has its own vibe. It is only natural that folks instinctively want to settle in a place that makes them feel positive, uplifted, upbeat and secure.
Yet, creating such an attitude for community does not magically appear. It begins with the people themselves putting in their share of good things such as caring, compassion, altruism, and above all, a dedication to recognize the world around them and to help wherever they are needed.
Rotary Clubs are just one specific example on these kinds of beneficial groups. In effect, they are organizations where members get together to connect with others, brainstorm, share ideas, make plans, take in mind the issues and concerns of community and problem solve. Through the hard work, diligence, efforts, and creativity of these Rotarians do so much to aid others– both domestically and abroad.
Rotary Clubs are chartered by Rotary International located in Evanston, Illinois. According to them, there are approximately over more than 32,000 clubs worldwide, grouped into 529 districts and those districts into 34 zones. Rotary International is made up of more than 33,000 Rotary Clubs in over 200 countries and areas, and Hanover Rotary Club is just one of the many.
Founded in 1941, focusing on service above self, The Hanover Rotary Club promotes and supports many initiatives–both community and internationally–through a myriad of service projects. Joining the Rotary is the ideal organization for people who care about their communities and the people within them.
For Lauren Hansch, President of the Hanover Rotary, it’s all about service, giving back and embracing the community in which she lives, and making a difference in the lives of others. Something she has been doing since she was young.
Having been with the Rotary Club for a little over 7 years, Hansch can’t say enough about it. “I grew up in Bayonne and moved to Hanover in 2011 with my then boyfriend, (now husband) Henry. When I moved to Hanover, the only people I knew were my boyfriend’s friends. I felt like I needed something to call my own.”
Although she and Henry a love of helping others (he is a volunteer firefighter), Hansch wanted something more. Seeking that connection, and falling back on her love of helping others, Hansch discovered the Hanover Rotary, an organization she was introduced to by her husband’s Fire Chief, she soon discovered it was a great fit.
“I love it,” Hansch enthuses. “Everyone can join who is interested in helping people.”
She says that the Hanover Rotary Club boasts 23 members so far. “Everyone is welcome, and it isn’t just for Hanover residents either, most members have at one time or another lived or worked in Hanover, though a good number of us no longer do,” Hansch tells.
And there is no age limit, the Hanover Rotary is open to all ages.
“Each week we meet for breakfast at Bin 37 inside the Shoprite in Cedar Knolls every Thursday,” she explains. “We have guests join us, who teach us about their organization, or a project that they are working on. Sometimes it is for educational purposes, other times they are asking for assistance (either physical or financial). In order to support them, we hold fundraisers throughout the year to raise money and do anything in our power to help them.”
“Our meetings are great,” she goes on to say. “Each meeting we start by eating breakfast and socializing with each other. The president opens the meeting by introducing the guests and then we have something called a ‘happy or sad fine.’ Essentially this acts as a small fundraiser for the club in which anyone who has either something happy or sad to report has to pay a dollar,” Hansch clarifies. “This is something that almost all Rotary Clubs do. Many times, when we have a fellow Rotarian as a guest they will even contribute also. Each week we also have a quiz,” she shares. “Where the designated quiz master will hand out a quiz to each table and the people sitting there will have to answer. If they get it wrong, they will have to pay a dollar fine. Next we’ll go over club news and then we’ll introduce the speaker who will give a presentation for about 10 to 15 minutes.”
For Hansch and the Hanover Rotary, the motto “Service Above Self,” isn’t just a motto, it’s a calling. When asked how many organizations the Rotary has helped, Hansch is unsure of the exact number, but she mentions that they have helped the community in a number of ways. From sponsoring Boy and Girl Scout Projects, to donating food and money to the Interfaith Food Pantry, to toy drives at holiday time, to giving out dictionaries to school children, to volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.
They haven’t just made a difference regarding the big causes either, the Hanover Rotary even puts their mark on smaller ones as well such as making hot dogs for Hanover Township Day. “There are endless ways that we’ve helped.”
“Our largest fundraiser is the annual Duck Race. This will be the 28th year,” Hansch says proudly. “And then there’s our Casino Night. Each year we also have smaller fundraisers such as pancake breakfasts.”
“I love being part of the Rotary and feeling like I am a part of something,” states Hansch, enthusiastically, knowing it has made a difference not only in her own life, but also in the lives of others.
“I am sad that most people don’t know what Rotary does,” she continues. “Once they find out that you have to pay dues to join, they are quickly turned off.”
The reason for this becomes clear as she explains, “The reason why our club has dues is to support a much larger organization that hosts projects around the world such as Polio Plus which is eradicating polio from even the most remote places in the world.”
When asked what makes Hanover’s Rotary Club so special, Hansch does not hesitate, “Our group really loves one another,” she tells. “We come from all walks of life and use our resources to help the community and each other in any way that we can. My favorite thing is truly the mentorship and camaraderie.”
Hansch even recalls a time when she experienced this generosity of spirit firsthand, “When I first started with the Rotary, I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree and taking some accounting classes. Our treasurer took the time out of his life to tutor me for weeks until I finished the course, it was amazing.”
When asked what upcoming event she is most excited about, Hansch mentions their long running Annual Duck Race that is coming up on June 8th. Fun for all ages, “This is going to be a special one,” she remarks. “Because we are including some of the small businesses in town to come and have a table or give a presentation. This hasn’t been done in the past, and we are excited to help businesses get their name out there.”
“As far as activities go, I’d say that my favorite activity is Casino Night. It’s a chance for our club to have some fun while raising money for our very deserving causes,” she says.
“The club has definitely grown and changed. In recent years, like everything else, it has taken a more digital approach. Throughout the years, the club has gone from mandatory weekly in person meetings, to allowing things like virtual clubs and webinar-based makeup meetings.” Hansch describes. She has made her own particular mark on the Hanover Rotary through that same technology by creating their website and launched their Facebook page to help improve their visibility.
It’s positive that the Rotary Club can thrive in the 21st century and beyond, a message that Hanch wants to carry to others, young people in particular. “My hope for the club is that the younger generations take more of an interest in helping others through the Rotary. We are an organization of over 1,000,000 members and it is at their fingertips. They only need to embrace it.”
For Hansch, the Rotary, and the people within it, inspire her in so many ways. “Each member has such willingness to help everyone around them. The members really embody the motto ‘service above self.’ I have made many meaningful relationships with my fellow members that come from so many different walks of life. In addition to helping the community both local and worldwide, it truly has made me a better, more understanding, and more empathetic person because of it.”
All wonderful qualities that she, and other Rotarians will bring to the community and the world at large. For further information or details on Hanover Rotary, please visit www.hanoverrotaryclub.org/.