Newington Rotarians and guests recently came together at Casa Mia at the Hawthorne to celebrate the club’s annual installation of officers for the 2018-2019 year.
David Tedeschi was sworn in as club president by Rotary District Governor Kate Sims amidst rousing applause from club members who welcomed their new leader while praising the accomplishments of outgoing president Michael Turgeon.
Sims also administered the oath of office to other Rotarians who join Tedeschi as officers: Pastor Joel Rissinger, Vice President; Randy Hamilton, Secretary; Dr. Michael Crouchley, Treasurer; and Ed Silverstein, Sergeant-at-Arms.
Serving as directors-at-large are Rotarians David Johnson, David Williams and Cherilyn Spatola.
In opening remarks, Turgeon enumerated the programs, projects and good deeds the club has supported. The club presented over $27,000 to its signature charity, the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, capping a six- year donation that totals more than $129,000 to aid the foundation’s mission into the research of new treatments and cures for childhood cancer.
In addition, to benefit the tri-town area fire departments of Newington, Wethersfield and Rocky Hill, Rotarians enlisted a plastics manufacturer to produce hundreds of door chocks, a personal pocket tool used by firefighters to prop open doors and prevent pinching hoses when battling residential and commercial blazes.
The Newington Police Department welcomed a Rotary donation check in excess of $2,000 to purchase equipment for implementation of its new educational program of self-defense for females known as R.A.D., (Rape, Aggression, Defense).
Newington Rotary donated in excess of $1,000 to the Newington Food Bank; provided hundreds of dictionaries to elementary age schoolchildren; purchased $1,500 worth of backpacks, flash drives and other school supplies that were distributed to local families in financial need; and awarded college scholarships and leadership opportunities for community-minded high school students.
Turgeon noted that topping the list of projects this past year was funding for the construction of a new picnic pavilion at Churchill Park and credited the incoming president for his dedication in working with the town Parks and Recreation Department and area businesses to get the job completed in time for summer.
“Even though the pavilion has already been used by several residents and by students enrolled in P&R summer programs, we are excited and eagerly awaiting the opportunity to co-host with Parks and Recreation an official ribbon cutting ceremony and town wide party on August 4,” Turgeon said. “We are proud that the structure will be officially known as the Newington Rotary Pavilion,” he added, indicating that a nameplate with the Rotary logo paid for by the club has already been affixed to the structure.
Following his remarks and prior to turning the program over to his successor, Turgeon called upon Past Rotary District Governor Kyong Wilson to bestow a special Rotary honor to Charlie Lowe, a charter member of the Newington club since its inception in 1960. Wilson presented Lowe with a medallion and crystal trophy recognizing him as a Paul Harris Fellow Plus 1, for his continued service and commitment to Rotary ideals.
“This recognition, named after Paul Harris, the Chicago attorney who formed the first Rotary Club in Chicago in 1905, salutes Charlie for going above and beyond financially and in Rotary spirit to exhibit Rotary ideals of service above self,” explained Wilson.
Concluding the evening’s program, Tedeschi acclaimed his vision for the future, addressing his remarks directly to the club’s members.
“Tonight, I’m thinking of 22 friends, who like me, are true believers in doing what little things or what big things we can do to improve the lives of others,” he said, referring to the small in size yet vibrant club that is composed of 23 members. “Rotary’s four-way test and its Service above Self theme are not simply words; they are part of our DNA. We take on the tasks necessary in our community, our state, our country and around the globe by volunteering our time, our talents and our treasure.”
He acknowledged that the club will continue to support projects like they have in the past because that is part of tradition. But, it’s also tradition for the incoming president to choose a platform he or she wants to pursue with his or her club members and even with non-Rotarians, those persons affectionately called Friends of Rotary, because they too support what Rotary is really all about.
“My passion right now is human trafficking,” Tedeschi admitted, emphasizing that human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery, widespread throughout the United States today. “Trafficking humans is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, and the fastest growing,” he added, acknowledging that estimates claim it to be a $200 billion industry, second only to drug trafficking.
“It disgusts me knowing that it not only exists, but that it is the fastest growing illicit trade and that it’s easily moved from country to country,” Tedeschi went on to explain.
Tedeschi became interested in trying to combat the problem after attending the Rotary International’s annual convention held in Atlanta last year and heard speakers begin to tell the story of modern day slavery. It’s so prevalent, that Rotary International has created a Rotarian Action Group Against Slavery.
“So why shouldn’t we take this cause on ourselves?” Tedeschi asked his club members, pointing out that the problem exists “right in our own backyards.”
“Coincidently, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve enjoyed your dinner tonight at a lovely place located on a strip that is commonly known as being a hot bed for human trafficking; yes right outside those doors,” he exclaimed, pointing to the exit and referring to the stretch of road known as the Berlin Turnpike.
Tedeschi wants Newington Rotarians to find ways to create more public awareness to the problem of human trafficking. The next step would be education and then providing funding to support those who’ve been identified as victims and help them to escape the prison they have been caught up in.
“As Rotarians, we need to become advocates for changes to the laws that govern human trafficking by talking with those who are in power to make change,” Tedeschi remarked, citing a number of governmental agencies and public and private organizations who have already started a multi-faceted process to combat human trafficking.
“They are making some headway, but the problem still continues to escalate and the battle is far from over,” Tedeschi emphasized, pointing out that studies have shown that if a young person ends up on the street, within 48 hours someone is going to approach them with the intention of exploiting them, typically for sexual exploitation.
Tedeschi intends to form a committee of Rotarians and non-Rotarians to address the many issues affiliated with putting a stop to human trafficking.
“I know in my soul that my Rotarians will be ready to act on this,” Tedeschi stated confidently, noting that Rotarians are a people of action.
He believes that if a small club like the Newington Rotary can be successful in calling attention to the issue, perhaps other Rotary clubs in the district will join in the fight.
In closing, Tedeschi thanked his club for having confidence by electing him as president. Leadership, he assured them, is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results. Influence is about spreading the passion you have for what you believe in and then having the ability to inspire members to be teammates, alluding to the fact that District Governor Sims’ mantra for the coming year is ‘Be the Inspiration.’
In addition to District Governor Sims and past District Governor Wilson, two other dignitaries attended the installation ceremony representing Rotary International’s District 7890: past District Governor Eileen Rau and current assistant District Governor for Area 9, Susan Chatfield.