Courtesy of The Pocono Record
Dennis Jeter remembers 11 years ago when he first became a member of the Rotary Club of the Stroudsburgs.
“Jim Becker (a fellow Rotarian) said I had to join,” Jeter said with a laugh.
At the time, he and Neal Simpson, an East Stroudsburg University administrator, were the only African Americans on the club. Eleven years later, Jeter worked his way up the ladder of board positions to become president. Like the business that he founded and leads -- A Sound Strategy in Stroudsburg that handles software development and website management for businesses in the area – he keeps the ship sailing smoothly.
Jeter also is believed to be the first African American elected to lead the club’s chapter, started in 1922, whose membership consists mostly of business owners. In 1987, women were included.
Jeter is one of two men of color in the area named to head a longstanding local organization, the other being Clyde Jerome Henderson, who presided over East Stroudsburg Elks Lodge 319 in 2012 and 2013 and likewise kept things running smoothly for that club that also is very active in community endeavors. East Stroudsburg Elks Lodge 319 was chartered in 1895.
Black History Month is observed in February but Jeter said he never dwelled on his groundbreaking distinction with local Rotary and he feels the membership has not either. Instead, he feels members work toward common goals of the club.
'Treated me like family'
“I never thought about the opportunity the lead the club as a groundbreaking event for African Americans or any other group,” Jeter said. "The Rotary Club of the Stroudsburgs has treated me like family from the first day I walked through the door. In fact, our club prides itself on its diversity and is always looking for ways to make everyone feel welcome. The motto of Rotary is "Service Above Self." My goal is to be the very best president I can be in service of the club and the community. If by that example I inspire anyone to join the club or rise to the position of president of the club, I am humbled and honored that I may have had a positive impact on them.”
Jeter most recently was involved in bringing in the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble to perform 7:30 p.m. on March 25 at the Sherman Theater and is organizing a club initiative to pay for 750 local students seriously involved in their schools’ music programs and their families to attend. Jeter has been involved with Juilliard and the music industry, including his association with legendary jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.
Jeter and Henderson both said they’ve felt a part of their respective clubs from the day they joined and never had a negative experience or heard a disparaging remark, even in jest.
“I’ve always felt welcome,” Henderson said of the spirit of inclusion and acceptance. “I was nervous in the beginning about being exalted ruler and concerned about what was required of me.”
Henderson apparently fulfilled his role as he was asked and agreed to serve a second term but declined on a third term because of the demands of the position. Henderson commutes to Parsippany, New Jersey as an IT specialist for Bayer Healthcare pharmaceutical company. He also served eight years in the U.S. Army National Guard and currently serves as chaplain for the Elks.
"He has been amazing and very quietly effective because he never talks about himself," said Carol M. Hutson, former exalted ruler. "He has so much energy, so positive."
As exalted ruler, Henderson introduced the Elk of the Month award that continues today and taps into his expertise for the club’s website maintenance and an electronic mediaboard above the club’s bar that updates with ongoing new information.
For the full article go to The Pocono Record.