As seen in the March 20, 2013 issue of the Woonsocket Call.

Doing Good & Feeling Great: Woonsocket Rotary Club News by Kristen Allen

When Gerry Noel, then at the Northern RI Chamber of Commerce, came to my office in 2007 to recruit a new member for the Woonsocket Rotary, I imagined a ritualistic gathering of old, stodgy businessmen--you know, something along the lines of Howard Cunningham from Happy Days wearing his ill-fitting fez as he frets about becoming Grand Poo-Bah at his Leopard Lodge.  My boss thought it would be good for me to network with these businessmen.  So, to a Rotary luncheon meeting I went.  As I expected, there were plenty of old guys.  To my surprise, though, they weren’t stodgy.  And about half the members were women who were around my age.  And there wasn’t a fez in sight.

     What there WAS in abundance is the best kept secret in town.  See, the Rotary Club of Woonsocket has been working quietly for over 50 years to make Woonsocket, North Smithfield, and Burrillville better places to live, work, and play.  You may know that the Woonsocket Rotary manages the concessions and the Beer Garden at Autumnfest every year.  Did you also know they have raised millions of dollars to support local projects?  The Woonsocket Rotary is involved in a dizzying array of good works ranging from stocking food pantry shelves to teaching Woonsocket third graders to swim to helping restore the Stadium Theatre to sponsoring Little League teams to giving out scholarships for area graduates.  Beyond fundraising, Woonsocket Rotarians have never been afraid to get their hands dirty.   Whether it’s pulling electrical wires to light up Autumnfest, or clearing brush for a nature trail behind Leo Savoie Elementary, or delivering dictionaries to North Smithfield Elementary or pulling weeds and harvesting greens at the Grow Up Community Garden, Rotarians are busy at work.   If something good is happening in the region, you can bet that the Woonsocket Rotary probably has a hand in it. 

     They have also been making a tremendous impact in impoverished nations around the world by sending funds, goods, and volunteers where they are most in need.  In just the past three years, Woonsocket Rotarians have been to Haiti to help build a hospital, to the Dominican Republic to install water filters in rural villages, and to Rwanda to help build libraries.  They’ve supplied an orphanage in Ghana with building materials and a copy machine, sent emergency relief supplies to Southeast Asia after the tsunami, helped give a city in India an ambulance, and immunized babies all over the world against polio.  Amazing, right?

     I’m a bit of an aging hippie. I garden and I recycle and I even dropped out of college for a while to follow the Grateful Dead. I’ve made my career in non-profits, working to make my community a better place.  I never thought that I would be a good fit for a “businessmen’s club.”  Who knew, though, that the “businessmen’s club” that is Rotary has as its mission to promote world peace through fellowship, community service, and promoting high ethical standards in our workplaces?  Now you all know.  

     Each week, I’ll be sharing stories about the good things that the Rotary Club of Woonsocket is up to.   If you can’t wait that long to hear more about Woonsocket Rotary, check out our website at or contact me at  Better yet, join us!  We meet every Thursday at 12:15 at River Falls for lunch in the piano room downstairs.  I promise you won’t have to wear a fez.


Article originally published in the March 20, 2013 issue of the Woonsocket Call.