Posted by Jason Sanchez on Mar 08, 2015

Although a young club in District 6840, the Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend has already trail blazed an extraordinary record of success.  Read about our formative experiences and what makes our club unique.

The history of the Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend begins with a Rotary District 6840 Group Study Exchange (GSE) trip in May 2008 to the Netherlands.  Future club presidents Dr. Tony Lamanna, Ph.D., and Bryan Rogers attended the GSE trip as their first formal involvement in Rotary.  The trip was led by Sharron Newton of the Rotary Club of Slidell Northshore.

Tony and Bryan returned from the GSE trip inspired by their experience and determined to establish a new club for young professionals.  During their trip, they met many clubs in the Netherlands, but the most memorable club was one that met in the evenings, which permitted many of the club members to enjoy fellowship together after the formal meeting concluded.  As Tony and Bryan began to identify and invite provisional charter members, they decided to focus on the core ideas envisioned by Rotary International founder Paul Harris, and host club meetings in the evenings, at a time when professionals could linger after the meeting to enjoy each other’s fellowship in a relaxed manner.  As such, the Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend is one of the few clubs in District 6840 that meets in the evening.

After more than a year of work, the Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend received its official charter on May 10, 2010.  The sponsor club was the Rotary Club of Metairie.  Among our charter members were two past district governors – Subash Kulkarni and Gary Scavo.  In addition to our charter members, two other District 6840 Rotarians have played a major role in our club’s establishment and culture, and as such the club lists former District Governor Greg Lier, of the Rotary Club of St. Charles, as Club Godfather and Patty Monju, of the Rotary Club of New Orleans, as Club Godmother.  As charter members of RCNOR included several non-US citizens, the Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend remains grounded in our local community, but keeps a strong connection and belief in the international fellowship and furtherance of the goals of Rotary.

The location of Phillip’s Restaurant and Bar was chosen as the club’s meeting place, as it was a central location to many club members, and the facility had served, in a post-Katrina New Orleans, as a community gathering place, with owners that were equally committed to the idea of service and rebuilding.

Club Charter member Subash Kulkarni would go on to serve as organizing president for the 2011 Rotary International Convention in New Orleans, for which the Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend provided significant manpower in hosting the International House of Friendship.

It was during only its second year of operation – the 2011-12 Rotary year – that the Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend was recognized by District 6840 as its Small Club of the Year in the District.

The club’s first three presidents – Tony Lamanna, Brian Rogers, and Bridget Kelly, were all charter members.  The club also has encouraged a rise through the ranks of newcomers, and as such Carl Michel served as the club’s fourth president, and CJ Jumonville was selected to serve as the fifth president.  A club charter founder, Jason Sanchez, was elected to lead the club as its sixth president during the 2015-16 Rotary Year.

Since its founding, RCNOR volunteers have donated more than 2,000 hours of service – an average of more than 700 volunteer hours per year – to causes ranging from the New Orleans Mission for the Homeless to Second Harvest Food Bank.  The club is probably most closely associated with its major ongoing community activity, the Freret Street Festival.

The Freret Street Festival is an annual one-day street fair, held in the spring, in support of the Freret Street Merchants’ Association.  The event drew more than 25,000 in 2013, and proceeds from the Festival help to run the Freret Street Market, a monthly farmer’s and crafts market that is held the first Saturday of each month.  The activities of the Freret Street Merchants’ Association and Freret Market have helped the renaissance of the Freret Street corridor, once a blighted inner-city area, now revitalized into one of New Orleans’ most attractive and exciting dining destination streets.

Two major initiatives were led by the Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend during the 2014-15 Rotary year.  First, the Club helped form its first Rotaract Club, Rotaract at Tulane.  The establishment of a Rotaract Club provides both a source of new Rotarians in the future, and formalizes the relationship between the Rotary Club and Tulane University.  Also in February 2015, the Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend sponsored the formation of its first club, the Rotary Club of New Orleans Mid-City.  Similar to its parent, the new club meets in the evenings with a focus on service above self as its main identity.

With a strong sense of community purpose and service, the Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend has laid the foundation for a successful future – one that we hope will include YOU.  Join us.