New Castle News

June 18, 2013

Rotary celebrates, makes history

Dan Irwin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — On a night when New Castle Rotary Club 89 celebrated its history, Gayle  Young was making some of her own.

Young, executive director of the United Way of Lawrence County, was recognized as the club’s first African American president in its 100-year existence.

The club, which was organized in November 1913, marked its centennial at the Cascade Park pavilion, an event that Young emceed. She officially becomes the group’s leader – and just its fifth female president — July 1.

“For me, it was just God’s timing,” Young said of the century that passed before an African American reached the top of the local club’s hierarchy. “I can’t say why it took so long. I’ve been in New Castle 19 years, and I joined Rotary in 2002, and there were quite a few minorities involved then.

“I was approached during Bill Lutz’ presidency (2009-10) about taking a leadership position, because they were trying to get young people involved in Rotary. It’s a three-year process. You start out as program chair, then president-elect – that’s when you do all the fundraising, which I did last year – then finally, you come in as president.”

For Young, the office is a good fit. She pointed out that Rotary and United Way have “parallel missions” of service, both locally and internationally, and that her United Way experience dealing with area charities gives her some insight into new directions that she might lead her fellow Rotarians.

“That is my plan,” she said. “We’ll be kicking off Rotary in the Neighborhood this summer, just connecting Rotarians will the summer food program. We’re serving as mentors and readers to low-income families in the neighborhoods of Lawrence County. That’s going to be a first-time thing.

“We’re also looking at re-doing some of the long-term fundraisers, and maybe coming up with a new one. Rotarians work closely with farmers in our area; in fact, we do Farmers Day. We’re looking at doing something other clubs have done, having dinners that local farmers have raised, as a fundraiser and a way to promote local produce.”

Young, who also is to be honored Thursday as one of the New Pittsburgh Courier’s 50 Women of Excellence, hopes to continue helping the local club continue its support of international Rotary Projects as well. For instance, at last night’s dinner, all tips left at the open bar were to go to Rotary’s fight to eradicate polio from the planet.

Young acknowledges there have been a lot of changes in Rotary Club 89 over the last century as it evolved into an organization that welcomed its first women members in 1992, its first female president in 2001 and now, its inaugural African American leader. However, there has been one constant.

“You have successful business people from all walks of life, every career background you can think of – and they’re always willing to serve,” she said. “That hasn’t changed in 100 years.”