By ERICKA VALES
Staten Island Advance
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. Fresh and fragrant flowers accompanied pretty pink napkins to adorn the tables at Marina Grand, Great Kills, as Debbie Ferrara became the first woman president of the South Shore Rotary in the group’s 56-year history.
Ms. Ferrara said that she was elected because of her leadership, not because of her gender. “When I came into the club, it wasn’t a big deal. They just went along with the program,” said Ms. Ferrara. “Now that more women are in the club, the younger women are looking for change. Now I’m here.”
The room was filled with applause, cheers, and laughter as the former president, John Caltabiano, handed over the reins to newly elected Ms. Ferrara.
Caltabiano praised his successor, and said that the trasition should be seamless. “She’s well-versed and well-trained. She’ll make an outstanding president,” said Catabiano.
In succession to the work of 58 men, Ms. Ferrara declared that she would only look to make changes to the club if necessary. “My biggest goal is to bring the senior members and the younger members together.”
In a heart-warming reunion, Ms. Ferrara’s son, a major in the U.S. Army, attended the event as a surprise guest. The room was filled with love and support of club members and their families.
Ms. Ferrara said that her past career in medical billing has taught her a life of caring for others and led to her participation in the club. “I have two grown sons and was involved with them in school,” said Ms. Ferrara, demonstrating her humility. “I wanted to give back to the community. I am blessed with my life.”
The first woman to join the South Shore Rotary, Mary Cibelli, sponsored Ms. Ferrara, inviting her into the club. Ms. Cibelli also mentored the newly elected officer and noted that Ms. Ferrara is known for her shining personality, along with her strong leadership. “She’s going to make everyone smile, even if they don’t want to,” said Ms. Cibelli.
She is filled with pride and confidence in Ms. Ferrara’s abilities as president, and said that the Rotary’s members are supportive of this memorable decision. “We will give you much strength, that you will need for this club,” said Ms. Cibelli.
Taking part in the ceremony were State Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. Ms. Malliotakis presented Ms. Ferrara with a special certificate from Rep. Michael Grimm for her outstanding achievements. Ms. Malliotakis expressed how she is proud to take part such an important moment. “To the president, I wish luck and success as well as the other slate of officers for the 2011-2012 season.”