A Cappella Sing Off
The a Cappella “Sing-Off” was started eight years ago. Past President Christian Hoyt saw the virtue of involving talented singers from different area high schools in a competition that would acquaint them with community service, particularly with the service of Ardmore Rotary Club in the community. The competition takes place on a Sunday in the winter when hundreds of people, including the singing groups, their family and friends, as well as people in the community, gather to be thoroughly entertained.
Over the years, the Sing-Off has grown from just a few schools to eight schools. In the early years, the first and second place finishers received cash prizes. More recently, however, a significant charitable component has been introduced. In addition to cash prizes for the winning teams, each team from every school wins the right to donate $500, funded by the Ardmore Rotary Foundation, to a local charity of the team’s choosing and to personally present that donation to the charity at one of our luncheon meetings in the Spring.
The Sing-Off is one of Ardmore Rotary Club’s finest activities as it brings together and showcases talented youth while providing them the opportunity to discover, learn about, and support many of the charitable organizations which contribute so significantly to the welfare of our community.
In 1977, the Ardmore Rotary Club, in partnership with Lower Merion Township, built and dedicated the Wynnewood Valley Park “Garden for the Blind and Children.” A highlight of the garden included cherry trees that had been donated by Rotary Club of Tokyo, Japan with which our Club has developed a special working relationship and friendship. Since 1973 exchanges of dogwood and cherry trees have taken place between our Club – for the Sensory Garden – and the Rotary Club of Tokyo – for the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo. The exchanges exemplify the “spirit of the flower that binds the world together”, as the Tokyo Rotary Club concluded when accepting our 2004 gift of dogwood trees.
In 2005, Ardmore Rotary Club joined with Lower Merion Township in an effort to restore the garden and make it accessible to persons with disabilities. We coordinated the fundraising and work required for the restoration, which was accomplished in partnership with Lower Merion Township, Lower Merion Conservancy, the Penn Wynne community, the Kistler-Tiffany Foundation, the Rotary Club of Tokyo, Shreiner Tree Care and other contributors. The restored garden was re-named the “Sensory Garden”. Twice a year, in the fall and spring, Ardmore Rotarians and family and friends gather at the Sensory Garden to rake, weed, prune, plant and/or mulch, whatever the season demands, to keep the garden in good order. Our efforts are supported by Lower Merion Township which provides gardening tools and mulch. The garden is filled with native plants selected for their tactile, olfactory, and visual qualities. The Sensory Garden is a gift to the community, a living tangible accomplishment of Rotary’s commitment to service.
Since 1984, Ardmore Rotary has sponsored and helped run an annual Pancake Breakfast to benefit the Merion Fire Company of Ardmore Firemen’s Equipment Fund.
This event, held each year on the first Sunday of October during Fire Prevention Week, has raised close to $250,000. Funds are raised from the generous contributions of our sponsors as well as ticket sales and placemat advertisements. Proceeds are used to buy equipment not covered by municipal budget allocations.
Rotarians work side by side with volunteer firefighters to make and serve a delicious breakfast of pancakes, sausage, orange juice and coffee for hundreds of people in the community who come out to support their firefighters. The many children who attend have fun climbing on and inside the fire trucks and leave with souvenir fire hats.
Everyone leaves with greater awareness and appreciation for the professionalism and sacrifices made by those special persons who keep us safe in our homes and community.
The Annual Holiday Auction and Allocations Ardmore Rotary Club’s Annual Holiday Auction has been raising money for the greater Ardmore community for over 50 years. The proceeds are dispensed directly to local non-profit organizations. Many of the organizations operate with small budgets and our grants are often a significant part of their funding. In the past few years we have worked to help the food-insecure population in our community. We are continually motivated by the organizations around us that are serving groups of other elderly, youth and other disadvantaged people.
We are always touched by the appreciative words of the leaders of the organizations when they receive their grants. In 2019, we supported the South Ardmore Boy Scout Troop 243, whose leaders have helped nine scouts achieve Eagle Scout over the years. Without outside help, these children’s lives could be on different tracks. In an emotional thank-you letter the troop leader wrote: “we are finally starting to feel the warmth of the community”.
Ardmore Rotary Club partnered with The Lower Merion Library System and the Lower Merion Parks Department in 2019 to install a StoryWalk at Ashbridge Park in Bryn Mawr. The StoryWalk is a literacy and exercise activity for young children. A series of 16 display units have been installed along a park pathway near the play area. On each display is a page from a popular children’s picture book. Children can read and enjoy the book as they walk the path. Books are changed quarterly. The first book for the StoryWalk showcased “The Not So Quiet Library” by award-winning author Zachariah Ohora, a resident of Narberth. StoryWalk is a wonderful and fun learning experience for children in our community.
Storywalk was funded by Ardmore Rotary Club, Rotary District 7450 and the Gundaker Foundation of Rotary District 7450, with additional funding from the Lower Merion Library Foundation.
5K Run Walk and Veterans Support
Ardmore Rotary Club’s 5K-1-Mile “Race Around the Square,” held in May each year, raises substantial funds for various projects and programs benefitting local veterans who have selflessly served our nation. This exciting event brings out scores of runners – and walkers – who compete for awards and prizes and for pride over a 5K course laid out around and through Suburban Square in Ardmore. Rotarians and their families participate in the event as runners, walkers, and workers and work to make sure everyone has fun and remains safe. We partner with CertaPro Painters of the Main Line and its volunteers. In addition to our working the event together, we procure event sponsors, whose great generosity provides support to organizations like Counsel for Relationships and Greater Philadelphia Veterans Network. These organizations provide important counseling and career services to veterans and their families who must deal with serious challenges at difficult times in their lives.
Habitat for Humanity
Ardmore Rotarians volunteer with Habitat for Humanity on projects in the greater Philadelphia area to build new houses for persons qualifying under Habitat’s criteria for becoming a Habitat homeowner. While there are various programs for rental housing assistance in Philadelphia, Habitat for Humanity’s program is one of the few providing for affordable home ownership in the city. The typical project involves new home construction, in various phases of completion. A work crew of volunteers is led by a Habitat construction supervisor or a volunteer with a professional construction background. The work crew typically works a full day. No experience is necessary to participate. Philadelphia Habitat for Humanity prefers to work with groups, rather than accepting individual volunteers. This makes a contingent from the Ardmore Rotary Club an excellent fit.
Community Leaf Cleanup
In 2019, Ardmore Rotary initiated a leaf cleanup project for older Ardmore residents. With input from community leaders and clergy, we identified a number of properties where residents had neither the ability nor the resources to remove their fallen leaves. With the wonderful help of 29 students from Lower Merion High School who are members of a “buildOn” volunteer team, leaves were raked, bagged and disposed of to the delight of many appreciative residents. This hands-on activity brings together community leaders, high school students, and Rotarians to help make the properties of seniors and the streets on which they live look a little nicer. This project was a dream of former Ardmore Rotarian, the late Herb Clark, the legendary WCAU-TV weatherman and a true Philadelphia Icon. Through it we honor Herb’s memory.
Bethel Academy Tutoring
In December of 2019, Ardmore Rotarians met with representatives of Bethel Academy, a non-sectarian learning center in Ardmore, to discuss how Rotarians could help students in grades three through eight improve their skills in math and reading for the PSSAs. From creating spreadsheets for Bethel’s coordinator to providing instructors for eight Saturday morning instruction sessions between January and March, Rotarians (including an experienced former school teacher spouse) have stepped up. While we trust our efforts will help prepare these young students, the gratification each of us receives from both working with these eager and joyful children and the appreciation expressed by their parents is truly priceless.