by Diane Lilli (as see in

Published 2-9-12




 The Montclair NAACP has hit the ground running in 2012 with a slew of new initiatives and a young, energetic president.

Speaking at a luncheon Tuesday for the Montclair Rotary Club, Montclair NAACP President Thomas Reynolds offered a rousing perspective of an organization that has its feet planted firmly in past but is taking large steps into the future.

Reynolds described new programs being launched in 2012.

"We have just started economic, financial freedom workshops in Montclair," said Reynolds. "We are having about 10 programs for JUne, and two this month on the 10th and 24th. Getting out of credit card debt and also raising financially responsible children are two of the topics. These will be very tailored, and will go into the nitty gritty of topics to hopefully really make a difference."
Another program, Healthy Montclair, is geared towards attacking the ever growing problem of childhood obesity.
"This is our health initiative," he noted. "Look especially at minority communities and you will see childhood obesity is a serous issue.
For the first time, this generation is seen as the one that won't outlive their parents."

Reynolds said he believes Montclair is the perfect community to make a change in health for children.

The Montclair NAACP is also going to be dealing with affordable housing.
"I grew up in Montclair," said Reynolds, who graduated from Montclair High School. "You look at kids coming out of college with almost $100,000 in student loans."

Reynolds said they young today cannot afford to buy their own homes.
And, he added, it's not just the new graduates who can't afford to buy a home in Montclair.

"Jobs are not paying a rate that equal living costs," he added. "If you're making a first year's fireman's paying MOntclair, after you finish your probationary period, is $50,000. Given every possible situation if you had every financial advantage the best loan you could probably get is $160,000. There is no house in Montclair for this amount. Our fireman, our police, our teachers cannot afford to buy a house in Montclair."

Reynolds said he wants to see the town go above and beyond the state minimums of affordable housing.

"Montclair has done a really good job - we have 651 units - which is
almost 4 percent higher than many towns, but Montclair can't just settle for the bare minimums," said Reynolds. 

Political action is also on the NAACP agenda. Reynolds said he wants to make sure everyone "knows where the candidates stand on issues' and that the NAACP will reach out to educate.

The ACTSO Project, a year long enrichment program for high school students to compete in up to 3 to 26 categories such as math, architecture, the arts, writing, and much more for minority students.

This year, in April, about 300 participating students will be in Montclair and Reynolds said he wants to give them an exciting awards ceremony, complete with the flashbulbs of the paparazzi. 

"I want them to feel like they are at the Academy Awards or grammy's," he said, smiling. "I want them to know when they walk out of there that at least Montclair is standing behind them."

What would it take to change the world? Rotary's 1.2 million members believe it starts with a commitment to Service Above Self.

In more than 34,000 clubs worldwide, you'll find members volunteering in communities at home and abroad to support education and job training, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, and eradicate polio.

The Rotary Club of Montclair serves the communities of Montclair and Verona. But this club does so much more, as part of an international group that works together to change the world for the better. 
Rotary’s main objective is service — in the community, in the workplace, and around the globe. The 1.2 million Rotarians who make up more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in nearly every country in the world share a dedication to the ideal of Service Above Self.

Rotary clubs are open to people of all cultures and ethnicities and are not affiliated with any political or religious organizations.

Locally, the Rotary Club of Montclair has been making a difference in our communities for over 80 years. Some of the causes we have supported include Camp Merry Heart, Girl Scouts, Habitat for Humanity, The HALO Trust, The Harvesters, HOMECorp, Jazz Connections, Inc., The Montclair Red Cross, Montclair Volunteer Ambulance Unit (MVAU), Montclair Youth Exchange, Polio Plus, Salvation Army of Montclair, Senior HOme Repair Program, Tibetan Children's Education Foundation, Toni's Kitchen, The Rotary Club of Cheropovitis, Russia, West Essex Rehabilitation Center (WERC), The Willow Tree, The Human Needs Food Pantry and many more.

Rotarians are guided by the 4-way test:

Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

If you would like to learn more, join us as our guest at our weekly lunch, every Tuesday at 12:15 at Marzullo's on Grove Street in Montclair.


Founded February 12, 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots–based civil rights organization. Its more than half-million members and supporters throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.


 ABOUT ACTSO: ACT-SO, a program by the NAACP, is an acronym that stands for Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics. It is a student enrichment program that culminates in a local and national competition where students compete for awards, and prizes totaling over $50,000.

ACT-SO, often referred to as the "Olympics of the Mind", seeks to promote the following among high school students of African-American descent:

Positive self-esteem
Positive interaction between our youth and the adult professional community
Positive academic and artistic excellence
High academic and cultural achievement 
The ACT-SO program centers around the dedication and commitment of community volunteers and business leaders; to serve as mentors and coaches to promote academic and artistic excellence among students of African-American descent. 

Students who participate in ACT-SO, compete with other students (locally) in up to 3 of 26 categories which includes sciences, humanities, performing arts, visual arts and business. The local competition serves to showcase the hard work students have put in all year long. Students receive medals and prizes provided by the local and regional sponsors and contributors. ACT-SO Students who receive gold medals on the local level then compete at the National Competition where they receive prizes and other rewards provided by national sponsors.