Meeting of 1/18/18: “Circles of Mercy’

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-7-10-54-pmMeeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush, NY
January 18, 2018

Members Attending (16): Roberto Martinez, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Debbie Rodriguez, Bill Dowd, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, Dick Drumm, Jim Leyhane, Phil Kellerman, Ray Hannan, Terry Brewer, Dean Calamaras, Carole Spencer, Melissa Bill, Charlie Foote.

Guests (2): Richard Zazycki, executive director of Circles of Mercy, and Lois Hannan.


Kasie Burrello
Kasie B.

MEMBERSHIP — President Roberto announced that Kasie Burrello is submitting her application to become our newest Rotarian. Some members know Kasie from her attendance at a variety of our meetings with Adam Roberts, who himself joined our ranks several months ago. Kasie has fulfilled the meeting requirements, and turned in her dues check. Roberto also mentioned there is interest by several other people in becoming Rotarians.

ROTARY HOME COOKING — The member-hosted dinner series begins this Saturday with “A Taste of New Orleans” being hosted by Debbie and Peter Brown. Three seats remain available, so please contact them immediately if you wish to attend.

EXCHANGE STUDENT — Although not part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program, student Alessandra Barbarossa from the Rotary Club of Cosenza, Italy, this week enrolled at Columbia High School under a private exchange scholarship. A.J. Amato, our Youth Exchange officer, has been in contact with her father, and we will issue an invitation for Alessandra to attend one of our meetings. Bill Dowd suggested inviting Michaela Rossetti  to the same dinner since she recently completed a Rotary exchange year in Italy.

INDOOR GOLF EVENT — The first of our “Mid-Winter Indoor Simulator Golf Tourneys” is scheduled for Saturday, February 10, at Burden Lake Country Club. Members are asked to share the flyer recently sent to them — and posted on our website and Facebook page — as much as they can through social media, bulletin boards, etc., to spread the word about this major fundraiser. Also, we will need volunteers to staff two-hour shifts at the event. Please see Murray Forth or Terry Brewer if you’re available.

Screen shot 2017-03-19 at 1.06.02 PMBOWLING FOR VETS — The annual bowl-athon fundraiser has been scheduled for Sunday, March 4, at the East Greenbush Bowling Center on Columbia Turnpike. We will be coordinating the activity with the new Rotaract club at the UAlbany School of Pubic Health which we are sponsoring. Event lead Jim Leyhane reported that one goal is to raise $1,000 to help cover the cost of acquisition and years-long training of a veteran’s support dog in conjunction with an effort  being undertaken by students and staff at Belltop Elementary School. Jim also suggested dropping the bowling price for children 12 and under to $10 while maintaining the $20 price for everyone else as a way to encourage more family participation.

YMCA MIRACLE LEAGUE DINNER — This event, which will involve the Greenbush YMCA, Rotary, Rotaract, and Kiwanis clubs, is set for Sunday, February 11. It will feed about 30 families. Preparations will begin at the Y at 9 a.m. and dinner will be served from 2 to 4 p.m. Shannon Romanowski will let us know how many more volunteers are needed.

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 9.28.13 PMOFFICER CHANGES & YOUTH PROGRAMS — We are looking for someone interested in serving as President-elect for the 2018-19 Rotary Year that begins July 1. Ray Hannan will be stepping away from that role. Also, Andy Leyhane has moved from an At-Large board seat to become President-elect for the remainder of this year after Jim Butterworth and Ron Annis stepped away from sharing that role. Andy, thus, is in line to become club president on July 1, and will participate in the PETS (Presidents-Elect Training Seminar) series that begins later this month. … As part of the current restructuring of the club committee system, Shannon Romanowski and Matt Smith have expressed interest in co-chairing the Youth Programs Committee.

BRANDED TOTE BAGS — The tote freezer bags branded with the SRC logo now are available at $10 each, proceeds going to Club Sustenance. Several were sold at today’s breakfast meeting as well as the dinner meeting, and one was given to newest member John Justino.

Screen shot 2018-01-19 at 2.45.55 PMRECYCLING SERVICE — Bill Dowd explained a bottle-and-can recycling service operated by a company called Clynk in conjunction with the Hannaford supermarket chain. It welcomes service organization clients under its “Community Cash Program,” and those in attendance unanimously voted to participate, with Bill leading the effort. The process is simple: Clients are given recycling bags and bar code stickers. They fill the bags with redeemable containers, attach a sticker, go to a Hannaford market where the bar code is scanned, then drop the bag in the receptacle. That’s it. Within 48 hours, the client’s account is credited. The only costs are a $4.95 quarterly service fee and $17.50 per 100 recycling bags. Such charges are debited from the client account, which cuts down on potential bookkeeping chores.

MISCELLANY — Mention was made of the passing of Richard Hodge, a 41-year Rotarian who has worked with many of us on such projects as Gift of Life. He was a member of the Colonie-Guilderland club. … The Capital Region Rotary Club’s 6th annual Bins of Fun toy collection for the Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center is under way. Details are contained in a posting on our club website. … District Governor Fred Daniels has announced a tree-planting program for Arbor Day in conjunction with RI’s intention to have one tree (sapling) planted worldwide for every Rotarian. That would mean about 1,320,000 trees. Details to come. The breakfast group suggested looking at some of our town parks as well as trying to involve Boy Scout Troop 41 which we co-sponsor with the Rensselaer Elks Club; the dinner group suggested checking into the possibility of planting at the Shining Star of Hope memorial on the grounds of the East Greenbush Public Library as well. … Phil Kellerman reported $50 has been donated to the Capital Region Nordic Alliance adaptive sports program from his coffee sales.

PROGRAM: “Circles of Mercy”

Richard Zazycki
Circles of Mercy’s Richard Zazycki

Bill Dowd introduced Richard Zazycki, executive director of the Rensselaer-based family aid organization Circles of Mercy. Richard, who has been in that post for 11 years, thanked SRC for its partnership with Circles for the past four years in the Adopt-a-Family, Back-to-School Supplies, Easter Baskets for Kids and other programs. Some SRC members individually also have donated numerous items of clothing and household goods to the Kate’s Closet thrift shop that Circles operates.

Richard explained that Circles’ founders, the Sisters of Mercy, came to this country from Dublin, Ireland in 1863, to help nurse soldiers wounded in the Civil War. A group of them eventually settled in Rensselaer, at that time called Greenbush, and have broadened their services over the years with an emphasis on needy families and particularly those headed by women.

Right now, the seasonal emphasis is on assisting families with annual income below $54,000 to handle their tax preparation needs at no cost. Working in conjunction with several other agencies last year, Circles served 38 families, 40 adults and 82 children and 38 adopters. Tax refunds of $3.5 million (federal and state plus tax credits) were realized in 2017. Richard noted that this puts money back into the local economy by paying bills, rent, buying food and clothing, and so forth.

In response to a question, Richard said Circles’ annual budget is between $135,000 and $160,000. He is the only fulltime paid employee, supported by a part-time secretary and more than 100 volunteers. He said when he became head of the agency it was in the red. “After my first year, we had a surplus of $14 — that’s right, fourteen — so we went out and bought pizza,” he said with a smile. “Since then, we’ve been able to have a small annual surplus that we’re building up with plans to purchase our building since rent is a major component of our annual costs. If we buy the building, rent paid by the other current tenant there will cover the mortgage payment and we can use any surplus for major repairs and improvements to the facility.”

He said Circles’ income comes from five church parishes, individual donations, the thrift store, several government grants, grants from such businesses as KeyBank, Stewarts, and Berkshire Bank, and such fundraisers as its annual gala and Irish Night.

Richard also announced that Circles plans to make a special award to SRC at this year’s gala (Wednesday, June 13, at the Shaker Ridge Country Club) for its years-long work in support of  the non-profit agency.

NEXT MEETING — 6:15 p.m. Thursday, January 25, at Quigley’s. Our speaker will be Robert Jucha of the organization Sean Strong.

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