Janice Hall wanted to do something special during her year as president of the Bayonne Rotary Club, and succeeded by leaving a significant record of accomplishments – including hosting the Rotary’s first mayoral debate in 2008 and helping rebuild a portion of an impoverished school in Jamaica.
Hall, who currently works at Weichert Realtors in Bayonne, has always kept an eye out for opportunities to help others less fortunate than she. With a personal interest in helping families with special needs, Hall served on the boards of the Hillside Children’s Foundation, Bay Area Adoption Services, and the Peninsula Children’s Center in various parts of the United States.
So she was a natural when it came to becoming a member of the Rotary Club in Bayonne, which is part of Rotary International – the world’s first service club organization with more than 1.2 million members in 33,000 clubs worldwide. Rotary Club members are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio under the motto “Service Above Self.”
As president of the Rotary Club in Bayonne, she wanted to do something different and meaningful. She, of course, continued to advance Rotary programs – such as the Student of the Month program for high school students, the citizenship awards for 19 students, and the scholarship program. Rotary is also well-known for the distribution of dictionaries to schoolchildren, and during the last year, the Rotary Club gave out more than 800 of these books to local third graders.
Under Hall’s watch, the Rotary Club held a seasonal party for pre-K kids and sponsored six high school students’ trips to the annual Rotary Youth Leadership Award Conference, and continued the Rotary’s Gift of Life fundraising efforts.
Fundraising for needy causes got rained on a little – both literally at the Rotary’s third annual Art Auction – and figuratively with the collapse of the international economy.
Yet, the Rotary managed to raise funds through raffles and various functions.
Hall gave credit to other members, such as Tommy Couglin and Allison Burns, for some of these accomplishments, and to Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia McGeehan for raising money for some of the club’s international initiatives in Jamaica and India.
Rebuilding in Jamaica
Rebuilding the toilets and a fence at an impoverished school in Jamaica became one of the centerpieces of Hall’s services as president.
Local school kids, along with Rotarian Sal Monte, helped raise funds that allowed a group to go to Jamaica for a week to accomplish the task.
During a recent interview, Hall recalled stuffing her suitcases with candy and other items she knew kids would enjoy, incurring the wrath of customs until she could convince the officials that items were being given away, not sold.
“We refurbished and painted the bathrooms, repaired and painted the building, provided storage bins for school supplies and fans for the classrooms.” – Janice Hall
“There was a lot that needed to be done,” she said. “But security was important.”
While there, however, the group – donating personal money to the effort – helped repair the toilets, fence, and gate and provided three 850-gallon water tanks.
“We refurbished and painted the bathrooms, repaired and painted the building, provided storage bins for school supplies and fans for the classrooms,” Hall said.
They worked for five days amid dust and grime, often with temperatures soaring above 87 degrees with inadequate toilet facilities, without an adequate water supply, and very little time to rest or eat.
“But the love that surrounded us, the smiles on the kids’ and teachers’ faces and the encouragement from members of the two local Rotarian clubs kept us going,” she said. “That was all we needed to make the trip worthwhile.”
Hall said she selected the school based on need since she was familiar with that part of the world and the troubles schools often faced.
The other significant accomplishment, she said, was hosting a mayoral debate last year that provided the voting public a view of the five candidates then running for mayor.
“This was something we hadn’t done before,” she said. “But I thought it was a very important public service.”
Last October, the Rotary Club sponsored the two-hour debate, in which local journalists – moderated by Monte – questioned the candidates on their positions.
“We packed the building,” Hall recalled during a speech she gave at the Rotary meeting on July 7, when she officially stepped down as president. “The publicity and good will we derived form this undertaking was outstanding. We made the front page of all our local newspapers.”
The taped program was also aired on local public access TV eight times before the election.
“The Bayonne Mayoral Debate, the Jamaica Norwood Project, the publicity and press we secured throughout the year for our many other projects and programs, our fundraisers and our donations to various causes, are testimony to what a great club we are,” she said, closing her speech, and her term as president.