Gilda R. Chirafisi

Gilda R. Chirafisi

Governor District 7230 - 1995-1996
District 7230 has approximately 2,000 members and consists of forty five Rotary Clubs, as such: 31 clubs in Westchester County; two in the Bronx; three in Manhattan; five on Staten Island and four in Bermuda. One of the first items of necessity in this DG world is to gain experience and knowledge of your District and to get known. A definite must.

I was lucky, I had been co-chairman of two district conferences and World Community Chairman of the District. I also went as a DGN with the District Governor of 1994-1995 on all of his club visits. He was very gracious and introduced me at ever opportunity. It was a very good experience along with the Zone Institute and Anaheim.
One of my visits was to a club that had as its 1995-1996 president a past district governor. He indicated on his Club Summary report that there was no need for my visit as they had three PDGs in the club. He completed his summary without the knowledge of his Board of Directors. He also indicated that I would need his help more than he would need mine. I read his comments to his Board of Directors at my official meeting with them since they had not seen or heard what was written by the Club President. Needless to say, the Club President apologized for his actions in front of his club's meeting that day.
Another of my Westchester clubs, located on Long Island Sound, had an unusual setting for my official visit. As I had sent letters to all Club Presidents advising them of the date and time, two months before my visit, I received a call the evening before the aforementioned club's visit, from the president, asking "Are you really coming at 10:45 A.M.?" I replied yes, as scheduled. The DGN and I arrived at the scheduled time and we waited and waited. Fifteen minutes late, the Club President arrived, alone, toting a large cardboard box with coffee and breakfast buns. He announced he wanted to hold the official visit in the park across from the meeting place as it was so nice outside (July, 80 degrees).
Never batting an eyelash I agreed. I could see that he was trying to discourage me from asking too many questions about the club (all males) and better yet, on his failure to complete and submit his Club's Summary and Projects for the year. We had our meeting and it was noticed then that the Club Secretary came to the restaurant and he could not believe his eyes when he saw the picnic on the rocks of the park. It seems the Club President neglected to inform his club about my visit and was marking time. We went in for lunch, and he asked me to sit with the other members, which I did, and give my talk. Since this was such an informal club setting I proceeded to give my talk and a little bit more. I asked for questions and drew this comment from one of the long-time members, "you're in Rotary for such a short time, how did you become so knowledgeable?" I told him that I read the Rotarian magazine, cover to cover!
My year was very special because of the celebration in New York of the United Nations and Rotary International Anniversary of Fifty years. I, being the District Governor of New York, got to speak to the delegates of the U.N. and to introduce Cardinal O'Connor at a luncheon meeting. Also, President Herbert Brown came to this three-day celebration. It was a truly wonderful happening.

July 1, 1995, Rotary International, had for the first time in history, women District Governors, a total of eight. District 7230 has 45 Rotary Clubs, 31 in Westchester County, two in the Bronx, three in Manhattan (New York City), five on Staten Island and four in Bermuda.
A little about this first woman District Governor for District 7230. Gilda Chirafisi's home club is the Rotary Club of Riverdale, which meets weekly, on Thursday evenings at 6:30 P.M., in a small restaurant in Riverdale. Governor Chirafisi became a Rotarian on July I, 1988, sponsored by the first woman member of the Rotary Club of the Bronx. After much deliberation whether to remain in the Bronx Club (a luncheon club) or move to the Rotary Club of Riverdale because of the more convenient meeting time, she moved in 1989. It was a good move and Chirafisi served as club secretary for two years and became president in 1991. The Club grew from 18 to 25 members that year, as well as presenting three Paul Harris Fellowship recognitions and funding Community and International Service Projects. A major community achievement was the funding of a Day Care Center in the Bronx Municipal Hospital for Children with AIDS. This agency, the only one of its kind in New York City, had been being threatened with closure due to the lack of state funds. Through a benefit concert and with the joint efforts of the Rotary Clubs of the Bronx and Riverdale, not to mention the publicity of the fate of the day care center, funds were obtained and the Center remained open.
Another incident was losing my briefcase in a Bermudan taxi with all my notes. This was after my first visit and I had three more to go. We searched right up until I was to speak to the largest Club, the Rotary Club of Hamilton. I had my official visit and was trying to put in sequence on paper the notes that I had lost. The reason for my concern was that I was to be on a radio broadcast, as the Hamilton Club broadcast their meetings each week in Bermuda, as a community service. I finally gave up this method as it wasn't working. When the President introduced me to the Club, I told them of my situation and I then began to speak without notes for about twenty minutes without stopping. I was amazed, but because I had said my talk so much, I had, without realizing it, memorized the whole thing! Later that evening as we were leaving the hotel for dinner, the same taxi came to pick us up. I asked the driver about my briefcase and he reported that he brought it into the hotel early that A.M. and left it behind the main desk where it had been all day! From then on, no more notes.
The Rotary Club of New York, the number 6 club in the world, gave me another incident. For the first time, the district had a Rotaract Club comprised of graduate students and interns at the United Nations. So, on my official visit I congratulated the Club for this wonderful beginning of Rotaractors. The Club President was very upset and red-faced, saying that there would be no new Rotary Club in New York City, not hearing that I said Rotaract Club. His reasons for being upset were the territorial rights the #6 Club claims. However, in the audience were at least six PDGs who heard me loud and clear.
I must say, that the best highlight of my year was my District Conference, held in the middle of April 1996 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in mid-town Manhattan. I had two top-notch speakers, one the Mayor of the City of New York, Rudolph Giulliani, for the Saturday luncheon meeting, and Richard D. King, Trustee of Rotary International, as the keynote speaker for the Governor's Paul Harris Fellows Dinner-Dance, Saturday evening. I had winners for both events, bringing in over 1,000 people from Westchester, Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan and Bermuda We had a record attendance for the Governor's dinner, 350 people attended. It was an exciting time!
In my position as a District Governor, I saw no difference between being a woman Rotarian or a man Rotarian We were, and are, doing a job well needed, and if necessary, I would do this all over again, willingly and with having some more insight, a little better than the first time.
When I look back, I am proud to say that some of my goals were achieved. We brought into the District a new project, The Gift of Life. Sixty-eight percent of my Share for the Rotary Foundation was obtained. I also think that I had people being aware that there were places to go other than Westchester County.
My family has been very supportive, especially my husband, who is president-elect of his club, the Rotary Club of The Bronx, and we did have to juggle some private happenings, but it all worked out.
I will not, and would not, trade my time spent with my District, especially the people who run the clubs, for one minute in watching something special on the TV. It was a great year in my life and I will cherish the memories, all of them!
July 1997, President Luis Vicente Giay appointed me as Zone Coordinator for Zone 32, Membership Task Force. We are now finally showing an increase in membership for this Zone!

Chirafisi was born in New Haven, Connecticut, educated in the New Haven School System, attended New Haven State Teachers College, Yale School of Drama and Columbia University, School of General Studies. Her business career began in New Haven, directly from high school, as the youngest branch manager of the Western Union Telegraph Company. After four years of work, a decision was made to attempt another career, the theatre. Acceptance to the Yale School of Drama was based on her summer stock experience.
Upon coming to New York City to become the "best actress ever" it became apparent that it was necessary to find steady employment. And indeed, employment was in advertising, accounting, sales and several high level positions in educational institutions. Now retired after twenty-five years at Columbia University, nine and half years of which were spent as Director of Special Events for the Columbia School of Law. Also while employed at Columbia, she was President of the Faculty Association, a University service organization, for five years.
Gilda Chirafisi has been married to Dominick J. Chirafisi for 47 years. He is a cereal chemist and member of the Rotary Club of the Bronx and resides in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Gov. Gilda is very active in community organizations and serves on two boards, the American Red Cross, Bronx Chapter, and the Bronx Arts Ensemble. She is a member of the Columbia University Faculty House Association. Her interests lie in the arts, theatre and music, and is trying to lower her golf handicap.
Governor Chirafisi's district experience has included Community Service Chair, co-chair of two District Conferences,
District Governor and now, Vice Chairman of the Gift of Life Project. In July 1996, RI President Luis Vicente Giay appointed
Governor Chirafisi Zone Coordinator of Zone 32, (17 Districts)
for the 1996-1997 Membership Task Force. She also repeated as president of her club, Riverdale, for the 1997-1998 Rotary year.

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