Service Over Self

The Rotary Club of Somerville and Bridgewater Celebrates 100 Years of Improving Lives Through Good Works

From financing student scholarships to building playgrounds for underprivileged children, the Rotary Club of Somerville and Bridgewater has dedicated itself to community service for the last 100 years.

Its continuous commitment to “service over self” commenced on May 18, 1922, when 17 civic-minded businessmen and professionals gathered at the Somerset Hotel and made plans to join the international organization. 

Their purpose—good works and good fellowship—has been embraced by succeeding generations of Rotarians, who have devoted themselves to a series of community betterment projects.

“It’s an organization that anyone in the community can reach out to if they need anything or if they know an organization that needs anything,” says President Robert Hardgrove. “Whether it’s helping financially or doing hands-on work, if there’s a good cause that’s brought to our attention, we will consider it.”

Hardgrove, who is a financial adviser for Raritan-based Northeast Financial Network, joined the Rotary Club of Somerville and Bridgewater in 1985, right around the time it expanded its membership to include women.

“When I saw what was going on, I said, ‘This is for me,’” he says, adding that he’s starting his fourth one-year term as president. “It’s not only about doing good; it’s about meeting other professionals and forming friendships. When I need a doctor, a lawyer, a banker, a Realtor or a new car, I go to someone in the Rotary Club before anyone else because I know their ethics are beyond reproach.”

Long-term memberships like Hardgrove’s are not uncommon. Jason Dameo, partner/CEO of Dameo Trucking & Distribution Center in Bridgewater, represents the third generation of his family in the Rotary. And just like their fathers, Craig MacArthur, formerly of MacArthur’s Appliances in Somerville, and Jamie Rick, president of the LaFontaine & Budd insurance company in Somerville, became club members.

Although the club, which has 25 members, contributes to global causes such as polio eradication and clean water through the international organization, its primary focus is local.

Through its fundraisers, including the October 2022 gala that will celebrate its centennial, the club awards 11 scholarships to students in the community’s four high schools and community college and supports Somerville’s Agape House, which has been offering emergency housing and case management services to single adults and families with children for nearly 30 years.

“Our members built a new playground for Agape,” Hardgrove says, adding that it was fulfilling to take up hammer and nail for such a worthy cause. “And we partner with the Branchburg Rotary Club, which has a food pantry, to deliver home-cooked meals to the residents.”

The club does other good works, such as packing weekend meals for elementary-school students through the Food Bank Network of Somerset County’s backpack program and holding street cleanups, where members, donned in reflective orange vests, pick up trash. It also sponsors Interact, a Rotary Club for students at Somerville High School.

“We have our finger on the pulse of the community because we are so involved,” Hardgrove says. “Being a Rotarian has made me aware of people who are less fortunate than I am, and it has put me in a position to help in a big way. As an individual, I’m limited in my resources, but through the club, I can do bigger and better things for those in need.”

Learn more about the Rotary Club at rotarysb.com.

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