By Rich Shimko
About a year ago Lydia Pastuszek listened to a voice message left on the phone at her Massachusetts home. “I am looking for Theodozia Pastuszek, associated with the Swarthmore Woman’s Club (SWC). She may be entitled to money in an unclaimed bank account.” While most of us might have been likely to delete the message as a clever marketing ploy, Lydia was aware of a couple of things: she knew her mother, Theodozia Pastuszek, had been the last president of the SWC when it disbanded in 2005; and she suspected the caller was probably referring to unclaimed bank accounts which eventually default to the state if the holders cannot be found. While the caller would help claim the funds in exchange for a hefty fee, Lydia knew she could contact the appropriate state agency directly and inquire about the funds, which she did. She discovered that the SWC had a bank account — now worth more than $60,000 — which had been overlooked when the club disbanded.
Lydia said the SWC was very important in her mother’s life, and she remembers when it was very active. As a child, she took ballroom dancing lessons in the club’s arts & crafts building at 118 Park Avenue (now the home of Swarthmore Ballet Theatre). But as a new millennium approached, the SWC seemed a quaint holdover from an earlier time when Swarthmoreans were more involved in community activities. As Robert Putnam famously wrote in his book Bowling Alone, Americans were much more involved in civic activities before television became popular in the 1960s. The SWC gradually died out as their members aged and were not replaced by the increasingly distracted young.
Acting on behalf of her mother (who is not in the greatest health), Lydia found obtaining the funds was slow going. Unfortunately, all the former officers of the SWC were either dead or incapacitated. Lydia credited Wallingford resident Lawrence Strohm, Jr. with talking to someone at the state agency “lawyer-to-lawyer” and expediting the release. Once she obtained the funds, Lydia, her mother, and her brother Alex Pastuszek of Swarthmore knew exactly what to do with the money.
They knew that for the SWC and Mrs. Pastuszek, education was a priority. And they knew that the Swarthmore Rotary supported schools such as the Chester School for the Arts and awarded scholarships to Strath Haven High School (SHHS) seniors. Lydia and Alex contacted the Rotary’s Marv Gelb and with input from Club president Joe Lesniak and Rotary Scholarship Committee chair Rich Shimko, they decided to continue the Rotary’s scholarship program, but use the SWC funds to increase the amount of the awards from $2,000 to $5,000.
Starting this year, the two $5,000 scholarships will be awarded to SHHS seniors attending college in the fall. The awards will be based on need and evidence of service to the community. Interested seniors should talk with their SHHS guidance counselors, who will do an initial screening and forward applications on to the Rotary for the final selection.
Applicants will submit a one-page essay on the following topic: “Rotary’s primary goal is service to the community, whether local or global. Please describe how you have served the community while in high school and how you hope to serve the community in the future.” The application deadline is April 15. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about the scholarship; more information on Swarthmore Rotary is at rcswarthmore.org.