Hammonton Rotary Club president Franco Catania was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship May 24 for his outstanding leadership during his two consecutive terms. Pictured from left in the presentation at Rocco’s Townhouse are Mike Brown, president-elect; Catania, and Phyllis Mazzeo, co-treasurer.

The past two years have been difficult for everyone. Yet the Hammonton Rotary Club managed to move forward and have success in its community service mission thanks to the determination of its members, and the leadership and focus of its president, Franco Catania. 

On Tuesday, May 24, the club showed appreciation to the outgoing Hammonton Rotary president by presenting him with a prestigious Paul Harris Fellowship, an award from the Rotary Foundation that recognizes large donations, outstanding service and leadership.

Named for the founder of Rotary, the Paul Harris Fellowship traditionally recognizes a contribution of $1,000 to the Rotary Foundation, which supports Rotary International’s global humanitarian, educational, and cultural exchange programs.

Rotarians can honor fellow members and non-members by making contributions of their foundation “points” to reach the $1,000 threshold on behalf of a desired recipient. It was the perfect way to honor Catania’s efforts.

During the pandemic, he made things happen on a number of levels, including volunteering to serve as president for a second consecutive term. 

With COVID cancelling Rotary’s major fundraisers, including its annual Wine Event and Designer Bag Bingo, finding new ways to fundraise was imperative to continue the club’s “Service Above Self” mission. So It mounted new fundraisers in 2021 including a scholarship raffle, a Memorial Day Murph Fitness Challenge and a Fun Shoot. All were successful,

Through text chains, email threads and Zoom calls, the club kept moving forward, making sure it maintained its commitments to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, local veterans organizations, youth sports, its scholarship program, and the Rotary Foundation, without interruption. 

The Rotary Fieldhouse at the Boyer Avenue recreation complex was erected, complete with a refreshment stand and restrooms. The club also donated toward the downtown clock restoration.

And new efforts were added, including a drive-through community COVID testing day, participating in the Hammonton Easter-eggstravaganza drive-thru and donating to the Hammonton Family Success Center.

The club was able to maintain its commitment to quarterly ACUA road cleanups on Central Avenue, and support of the  Hammonton High School Interact Club.

When presented with the award, Catania credited his fellow Rotarians with the club’s COVID-era successes.

“As I have said many times before, we’re a small club, but we’re a mighty club,” he said after the award presentation by Phyllis Mazzeo, co-treasurer.

The 1991 Hammonton High School graduate is also a member of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society, is on the Hammonton Youth Soccer Association board of directors and is a fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus.