Schenectady

Schenectady Rotary Club to mark 100 years of service with clock

Names of Rotarians and sponsors are listed in plaques around the base of the clock at 1410 Erie Blvd. in Schenectady on Nov. 9, 2021.
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Names of Rotarians and sponsors are listed in plaques around the base of the clock at 1410 Erie Blvd. in Schenectady on Nov. 9, 2021.

SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady Rotary Club has had a presence in the city for more than 100 years, providing timely services to residents and charitable organizations throughout that period.

So, when it came time for the service organization to mark its centennial, gifting the city a pedestal clock seemed only fitting, said Ellen McHale, the group’s president.

“We try to respond to the needs of the moment and what the community is experiencing,” she said. “For service organizations like Rotary, time is a big thing.”

Locally, the club hosts a number of youth programs and has assisted a number of local organizations throughout the years, including the COCOA House and the Hamilton Hills Arts Centers. Volunteers have also cleaned up city parks and donated services to local food pantries, McHale said.

But the clock, which stands across the street from Mohawk Harbor along Erie Boulevard, came a few years late. The organization actually celebrated its centennial in 2018, but has spent the last three years fundraising to cover the $32,000 price tag. The clock has been inscribed with 100 names of those who donated $250 or more for the clock, and can be programmed remotely.

A formal unveiling is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. on Friday.

McHale, a Rotarian for the past 21 years, said she hopes people will link the clock to the Rotary Club’s connection to the community.

“I would hope that it brings a permanence, I guess, to the idea that Rotary is a permanent part of Schenectady,” she said.

The club had originally proposed placing the clock in front of the city’s recently remodeled train station, but changed course after learning a clock was already slated to stand there.

Its new location will serve as the eventual location for a downtown connector trail, linking the harbor to Jay Street. The Alco Tunnel Trail, which will be lined with upgraded lighting and public art displays, is part of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, a $10 million state grant awarded in 2019 designed to spark economic development in the downtown area.

Plans for the trail are still in development, but the clock will serve as a “beacon” for those in the downtown area, according to James Salengo, president of the Schenectady Downtown Improvement Corp. Salengo joined the club last January.

“I think it’s the right project at the right time and the right location,” he said. “That stretch of Erie Boulevard has really undergone a ton of transformation over the past years following the development of the casino in Mohawk Harbor. … I just think the clock will almost double as a beacon or a landmark to indicate that connection point when all of those projects really come online.”

The Rotary Club, meanwhile, has a presence in hundreds of communities throughout the world and works to provide a wide range of services that extend far beyond the Electric City.

In addition to providing scholarships to Schenectady High School graduates and SUNY Schenectady students, the group sponsors a robust foreign exchange program through a partnership of hundreds of international clubs spread across the globe, McHale said.

All work and services are provided through charitable donations, she said.

“Rotary is a global network. It has more than 1.2 million members worldwide,” she said. “Most countries have at least one Rotary Club and often there are projects that happen on the international basis.”

The Schenectady club, made up of 55 members, has been working with the Haitian Rotary Club to provide residents of the Caribbean country with water filters and medical supplies in recent years, said Brian Merriam, chairman of the club’s international committee.

The organization also began mobilizing efforts to purchase and donate an ambulance to the country shortly after a devastating earthquake in August, which killed thousands and injured and displaced scores more.

“We’re going to be driving it down to the ports in Florida and then it will be put on the ship and it will be transported to Haiti,” he said. “These are the kinds of things Rotary does.”

Merriam, a Rotarian for the past 32 years, said he hopes the clock serves as a reminder that the Rotary Club will continue to provide services in a timely manner wherever needed.

“My hope is that when people see the clock, they’re going to remember that Rotary is not only in our community, but Rotary is always on time to respond to the needs of our community,” he said.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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