About 60 members of the Rotary Club of New York (RCNY) mingled at Vogel NYC 1879 Atelier in Midtown Manhattan on Feb. 23 for a good cause -raising funds for the earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria.
The devastating 7.8 magnitude tremor struck southern-central Turkey and northern Syria on Feb.6, killing over 45,000 people, and displacing millions.
Andreas Runggatscher, executive director of the RCNY, Fabio Berardi, Vogel‘s North American sales manager, and Shawn Jacobaccio, president of John Fitch Distilling Company, were in the midst of planning a social gathering for RCNY members when the earthquake hit Turkey and Syria. When they saw the extent of the devastation and human suffering, the trio decided to hold a fundraiser and a raffle for the victims instead.
John Fitch Distilling Company, a Connecticut-based distillery, which is famous for its bourbon, donated an array of spirits to the raffle. Vogel, which has been a New York City institution since 1879 crafting custom-made shoes and boots, donated a pair of men’s shoes, valued at $2,000.
The event raised close to $20,000 and the money will go directly to local rotaries in Turkey.
“Rotary likes to do it this way because then we know exactly where the money’s go,” Runggatscher explained. “There’s no overhead, [the money] just goes directly where it needs to go.”
Sertan Seylan, who is from Turkey, said that approximately 13 million people had been affected by the earthquake. Seylan explained that the most urgent needs were housing, clean water, and especially, medical care.
“In Turkey, almost everybody has a friend or a relative or a family member affected,” Seylan said. “In the next couple of weeks, most probably we will go to visit with other Rotarians there to see what’s going on on-site.”
Levent Ozkurt, president of RCNY, said that the rotary club was in constant contact with rotary clubs on the ground in Turkey. He explained that the rotaries were putting up tents, care packages, and medical equipment.
“We’re raising money here to supply them over there to continue providing, especially the medical stuff,” Ozkurt said. “It’s very cold there right now. So for that reason, we’re trying to get [the money] out there as fast as we can.”
Berardi hails from Assisi, Italy, which experienced a 6.0 tremor in 1997, killing 11 people, including a close friend of Berardi. The fundraiser was close to his heart and he was “happy” to provide Vogel’s showroom for a good cause.
“When we were organizing, this very bad thing happened,” Berardi said. “We are very happy to be able to help in the way we can.”
Jacobaccio that his distillery had just held a fundraiser for Ukraine when parts of Turkey and Syria were left in ruins.
“It seems to be our MO making spirits to help others,” Jacobaccio said. “Our executive director said, you know, sadly, this terrible event happened in Turkey, and said we could use this as an opportunity to raise funds for some disaster relief.”
George Onuorah has been an RCNY member for 5 years. He said that the devastation touches “our core humanity.”
“I’ve been a humanitarian for many years traveling the world,” Onuorah said. “So this rotary club provides me the opportunity to do more, to extend myself to the service of others.”