Even after I joined the Salt Lake Rotary Club six months ago, I wasn’t sure just what to think. The average age of our active club members—judging by appearances—is north of 65. The image of a bunch of senior men—with a few younger women and a smattering of guys who still have hair that isn’t all gray—singing the National Anthem and reciting the pledge of allegiance seemed a throwback to a time before I was even born.
You probably know that Rotary International is the group to which Bill Gates and his foundation turned years ago to fund the global battle on polio. In the mid-nineties Rotary helped to immunize 165 million children in China and India in a single year. Rotarians themselves have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the fight against polio. Rotary is winning this battle: in 1988 when Rotary launched their global initiative (individual clubs had been active in the effort long before) there were 125 “polio endemic” countries in the world; today there are just three.
The luncheon meetings at our club have been fascinating. They remind me of the best of Ted Talks, with experts visiting each week and sharing insights on demographics, birth control trends and technology, world peace from the perspective of a Utah-based Krishna priest, and performances from some of Utah’s most talented people.
While I love the lunch speakers, I joined Rotary for the social good. And I got what I came for.
Recently, I reached out to the Rotary International community to learn about the sorts of things clubs are doing around the world.
If you are a Rotarian and your story isn’t included in the article, please share it in the comments below.
Regina Edwards, a municipal attorney and past president of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Rotary Club shared the story of their club’s work in Jamaica, providing medical equipment for the Cornwall Regional Hospital and the Blessed Assurance and West Haven homes for disabled children. Over the past decade, the club has provided $300,000 of medical equipment, supplies and toys. Baylor Health Care System from the Dallas Area has been their key donor, she notes. “We partner with the local Rotary club in Montego Bay which coordinates with the hospital so we know we are providing requested items on its “wish list”, working with the Ministry of Health in Jamaica so the items enter duty-free and arranging transportation directly to the hospital (so none are lost to the black market),” she says. “The world is a place of incredible need and hope all wrapped up together. ‘Service Above Self,’ a simple Rotary motto to aspire to and even more fun and rewarding when you put it into practice,” she concluded.
Pete Cross, a retired international business consultant who sits on the board of his club in Carrollton/Farmers Branch, Texas shared his experiences with mentoring and tutoring students at a local school over the past thirteen years. Many of the students are immigrants learning English and struggling in school; most, he says, do not have intact families. The Carrollton/Farmers Branch Rotary Club also provides the school with funds for supplies, field trips, winter coats and Rotary organizes a big holiday party for the kids every year. He says, “[I] Have had [my] share of successes and failures but know it has been favorable when a young adult taps you on the shoulder, introduces you to his wife and child and then says ‘remember me, I was your first kid and without you I would have never made it, thanks.’ This makes it all worthwhile and keeps you going back for more!” He notes that the greatest impact of the effort is the number of kids who graduate from high school and go on to college.