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Women in Rotary: Serving as Leaders

Kathy Corcoran, left, became president in 2020 and Beth Marshall served as president in 2012 of the Rotary Club of Zelienople. Submitted photo

Women may not have had a seat at the Rotary Club table until 1987, but over the past 37 years they have risen to the highest levels of Rotary leadership.

In 2022, Jennifer E. Jones, of Canada, served as Rotary International president, the first woman to be selected in the 117-year history of the organization.

The next female Rotary International president, Stephanie Urchick, is a resident of Canonsburg, Pa., and will take office in July. The term runs July 1 through June 30.

At the Zelienople club level, five women have served as club president since 1987: Carroll Cooper, Joella Baker, Beth Marshall, Charlie Deer and Kathy Corcoran.

Carroll Mussig Cooper served as the first president of the Rotary Club of Zelienople in 2000. Submitted photo

Carroll Cooper recalls that, as the first female club president in 2000, it was a bit scary.

“There were a few male members that didn’t care for female leadership,” Cooper said. “But it also was an honor. My father, Julian Mussig, owner of Mussig Florist, was very active in Rotary. He had perfect attendance for attending weekly meetings. I am proud to say I also have maintained perfect attendance over my 28 years as a Rotarian.”

Among her many contributions to the club, Cooper, who took over as owner of Mussig Florist until her retirement in 2021, frequently donated floral arrangements for club events. She also initiated a flower fundraiser, where Zelienople Rotarians sold roses and carnations to raise money for the club’s various projects.

Joella Baker served as a president of the Rotary Club of Zelienople in 2005. Submitted photo

Joella Baker reflected on her tenure as president in 2005.

“I recall the year was fun and productive,” Baker said. “We held our weekly meetings at the Kaufman House. Our biggest fundraiser was an art auction and we used the proceeds to purchase Christmas wreaths for the light posts on Main Street.”

For the past 15 years, Baker, owner of Get Fit Families, has served as race director for the club’s annual Shamrock Shuffle races in Harmony. She initiated what has become the club’s largest annual fundraiser in 2009. This year’s event will be March 23.

Beth Marshall, owner of Marshall Hair Salon, became president in 2012. A fire at the Kaufman House in October 2011 had closed the restaurant and the club’s longtime meeting space. Marshall was active in helping the club find temporary space at St. Peter’s Reformed Church.

Marshall, who has a passion for working with youth, established a “Student of the Semester” recognition program in the Seneca Valley School District and continues to help coordinate the Rotary District’s Youth (International) Exchange Program. The main service project during her year as president was to raise funds for the construction of the amphitheater at the Zelienople Community Park.

Charlotte "Charlie" Deer works with Steve Schoppe at a Rotary Club of Zelienople pancake breakfast. As incoming club president for 2024-25, Charlie will serve her second term as president. Submitted photo

Charlie Deer, a retired educator, camp director and part-time EMS worker, served as president in 2017.

“I like to lead with laughter,” Deer said. “As I reflect on my year as president, I finally understood at the end of my year what needed to be done. I believe serving as president should be a two-year commitment.”

Deer, an advocate for people with disabilities, chose to raise funds for exercise equipment at the Zelienople Community Park that would serve both traditional and people with disabilities.

“It amazed me how many club members and my family helped with this project. Our club members always put others before themselves. That made my year as president,” Deer said.

Kathy Corcoran had an unexpected challenge when she became president in 2020. “My entire year as president was during the pandemic. Although some Rotary Clubs chose to suspend meetings, our club embraced technology and we learned how to use Zoom,” Corcoran said. “Our club never missed a meeting.”

Corcoran, whose career was in communications and fundraising, shared, “We also reinvented the way we handled service projects. We chose a different local charity each month to send both monetary and in-kind donations. We helped local restaurants by encouraging area residents to order takeout by awarding restaurant gift cards.”

“When the club couldn’t hold the Fourth of July Parade, it instead held a “Porch Procession,” an abbreviated form of the parade that went up and down residential streets to bolster community spirit at a very trying time. And, Zelienople Rotarians sewed more than 1,000 cloth face masks when N95s were unavailable, Corcoran said.

The major service project for 2020 was to help update the playground at Connoquenessing Valley Elementary School.

At the same time Corcoran was club president in 2020, Marshall served as the sixth female District Governor for District 7280, leading a district of 42 clubs, including Zelienople.

“I believe Rotary has given me the chance to make a difference and build leadership skills,” Marshall said. “Being club president in 2012 helped me to better understand Rotary and its programs.

“But everything changed in 2020 with pandemic restrictions. Many activities were postponed or canceled. But many clubs still found a way to serve. That was very inspirational.”

Today, the Rotary Club of Zelienople has a membership ratio of one woman to every two men. The club expects that ratio to continue to narrow. In the past five years, eight of the 12 new members have been women.

Rotary isn’t just for men anymore and women aren’t just taking a seat at the table. They are helping to build a longer table.

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