HISTORY OF THE ROTARY CLUB OF
The Rotary Club of Plainfield was first conceived by two prominent city business men-William L. Smalley and William N. Runyon-during the early days of 1921.
Following several visits to the Rotary Club of New York, plans for the organization of the club were formulated with the help of James G. Orr of the Elizabeth Rotary Club.
On December 1, 1921 Charter Number 1034 was issued by the International Association of Rotary Clubs to the Rotary Club of Plainfield. This was club number 5656 of what has become over 32,000 clubs as of March, 2006.
The club's charter night celebration took place at the Park Club on January 10, 1922. William L. Smalley acted as Toastmaster. The first officers of the club were as follows:
President William L. Smalley
Vice President Walter L. Hetfield, Jr.
Secretary John J. McLaughlin
Treasurer Morris C. VanArsdale
Sgt.-at-Arms Arthur L. Seidler
Over the years, the Rotary Club of Plainfield was served by community leaders, their sons and grandsons. During the club's fiftieth year, membership included Ralph J. Smalley, Jr., the grandson of the first president, and three other members who were also grandsons of charter members, and three father-and-son teams.
Rotary's early membership reflected a "Who's Who" of Plainfield, with names easily recognized by those familiar with Plainfield's legacy. Hetfield, VanArsdale, Seidler, Loizeaux, Runyon, Smalley, Blatz, Higgins, Hubbard, Warlaw, Cook, Fort, Lathrop, and Mathewson are names known and remembered for their many contributions to the City of Plainfield. Many of these names can be found on parks, schools and other buildings.
The Rotary Club flourished with the growth of Plainfield as the "Queen City". The club supported the needs of the community through the committee structure of Rotary International. Some of the club's projects and contributions to community and international service are listed:
- Medical care, hospitalization and therapy for a high school athlete injured in a Plainfield High School football game in 1923. Following his partial recovery, the club even set the young man up in business.
- Annual track and field meet for high school and later junior high school athletes. This project is the longest running, continuous service project of its kind in New Jersey, if not the nation.
- Provided not only financial support but also guidance and sweat equity for the Boy Scouts, YMCA, United Fund, Salvation Army, Recreation Commission, American Red Cross, Girl Scouts, Red Bird teen center, Kings Daughters Day Nursery, Neighborhood House, Camp Endeavor, Muhlenberg Hospital and other charities and charitable organizations.
- Supported the Rahway Reformatory, Jamesburg School for Boys, Save-A-Life Campaign, Clothes for Needy Children, local defense council, sale of war bonds and stamps, Fort Dix recreation centers, cancer drives, nurse recruiting, Grinnell Youth Conference, juvenile jury work, juvenile delinquency, and the Elks crippled children program.
- The Club constructed a wading pool at the Kings Daughters Day Care; installed a drinking fountain and landscaped the corner to create the "Rotary Mini-Park" in front of City Hall; erected flag poles at the Plainfield and North Plainfield athletic fields; purchased a complete camping outfit for boy scouts attending one of their World Jamborees; purchased a van for transporting handicapped at Muhlenberg Hospital.
- Planted trees along Somerset Street in North Plainfield; participated in Main Street Clean-up Program; support the Adult Literacy Program at the Plainfield Public Library; sponsor youth Interact Clubs at Plainfield and North Plainfield high schools; donated used clothing to a Sioux Native American reservation; sponsored local blood drives; prepare and serve meals to the homeless and needy at the YMCA.
- Sent used wheelchairs to a hospital in Buenos Aires; contributed to Rotary International's project to eradicate polio; collected used bicycles for distribution to central American countries; provided clean drinking water filtration unit for families in Central America; provided housing units for families in Ecuador; sponsored a poor family in Ecuador with children's health, educational and nutritional aid; support the Amazon Medical Project team.
- Presents scholarship aid to seniors at Plainfield High School and North Plainfield High School for many years.
- Gives a free dictionary to every third grade student in Plainfield and North Plainfield elementary schools.
- Maintains a plot in the Giving Garden in Warren Township to grow vegetables for local food banks, including StarFish Food Pantry in Plainfield.
- Collects food monthly and prepares food baskets for StarFish Food Pantry to distribute to 12 families for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners.
Over the years, the Rotary Club of Plainfield reflected the businesses and communities that it represents, both in Plainfield and North Plainfield. As the economic base of Plainfield declined in the 1970's and 1980's, membership in the Club declined as well. However, the Club's strong identity with both Plainfield and North Plainfield has continued in the core membership.
In 1985, Rotary International finally changed its constitution to allow women members. The Board of Directors of the Plainfield club quickly amended its own Constitution and By-Laws to eliminate any restrictions on women's membership. The Club then inducted the first of many women members, as reflected in the current membership.
Early in 1999, the club petitioned Rotary International to change the chartered name of the club to the Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield. This designation more accurately reflected the balance of membership between both communities.
In 2018, the club again petitioned Rotary International to change the chartered name of the club to The Rotary Club of the Plainfields. This name change reflects the fact that we draw membership from all three communities - North Plainfield, Plainfield, and South Plainfield.
The members of the Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield have gathered for thousands of weekly meetings since December 1, 1921. In all, the Club has served the communities of Plainfield and North Plainfield with pride and distinction for nearly 100 years, a tradition reflected in Rotary International's motto - Service Above Self.