By Danny Schrafel
If you stop by the Southdown Marketplace this weekend, you might see some familiar faces outside the sliding front doors of the Huntington village supermarket.
That’s because the Huntington Rotary Club will be collecting food from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. in support of Huntington-area food pantries, and it’s just one of many ways the nearly 90-year-old Huntington club gives back.
Rotary International was founded in Chicago in 1905 by Paul P. Harris to create a forum for professionals with diverse backgrounds to exchange ideas, form meaningful, lifelong friendships and provide community service. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of each member, and the organization has been a leader in the worldwide fight against polio.
Locally, the Huntington club recently did its part to support life-saving heart surgery for children in need with an Oct. 8 fundraiser at Appliance World, raising over $16,000.
There, as Peter Mazzeo and the Hit Squad performed, restaurants, including Piccolo, Black & Blue, Neraki, Nisen, Fado, Char Grille and The Whale’s Tale hosted a tasting of menu favorites while Fiorello Dolce, Sapsuckers, Kilwin’s, the Copenhagen Bakery and Almarco provided desserts.
The majority of those funds will be donated to the Suffolk County Gift of Life program, with the remainder benefiting Huntington Rotary.
Founded in 1975 in Manhasset, Gift of Life International aims to provide medical services to children around the world suffering from heart disease who lack access to treatment.
In some cases, children and a parent are flown to the United States for surgery and are hosted by Rotary families. Locally, procedures cost about $4,500, thanks to a partnership with Catholic Charities in which the Rotary pays anesthesia and hospital room costs, and the hospital staff donates its services.
In recent years, the program has increasingly made efforts to export treatment. Doctors volunteer for medical missions in impoverished nations and, by sharing equipment and expertise, help develop sustainable pediatric cardiac surgery and aftercare programs, such as those in nations like Uganda, El Salvador, Jamaica, Haiti and the Philippines.
To date, more than 17,000 children around the globe have been treated through the Gift of Life program.
Huntington Rotary’s next endeavor, scheduled for Dec. 3 at Mac’s Steakhouse, is new to the club.
At their first Festival of Trees, nearly 100 tabletop holiday trees, decorated by donors, will be on display. A panel of judges will select the top 10 entries, which will be auctioned off. The remainder will be distributed by teacup raffle. A 50-50 raffle is also planned.
The Festival of Trees is open to the public from 6-9 p.m. Admission is $10 p.p. and includes free appetizers and a cash bar.
“This promises to be an exciting evening and will set the tone for even greater success in future years as we build on this year's success,” said Huntington Rotary president Greg Fitzgerald.
Rotarians also support the Huntington School District in a number of ways, one of which is the distribution of $14,000 last year in scholarships each year to outstanding Huntington High School students and are sponsors of the Huntington Robotics team, which got its season off to a strong start this season with a victory in the Half Hollow Hills Invitational over the weekend.
Huntington Rotary Club meetings are held every Tuesday at noon at Mac’s Steakhouse in Huntington village. For more information about the Huntington club, “like” the Huntington Rotary on their new Facebook page or call MJ Fitzgerald at 516-848-6945.