What sets Rotary apart?

Published 2:57 pm Friday, February 11, 2011

As the Bainbridge Rotary Club builds toward our first Casino Night fund-raiser on March 3, it seems to be the time to explain just what it is that makes our club unique.

Back in 1905, a man named Paul Harris envisioned a new type of cooperative organization. While he was a successful businessman in Chicago, he remembered his roots from a small town, and he wished to preserve those values. He and three other business leaders began meeting together. The name for the new organization became Rotary because they rotated meeting sites among their offices.

Under the leadership of Harris, the organization took off. Within 10 years, there were Rotary clubs all over the United States, and by 1925, there were clubs on six continents.

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Rotary was never intended to be just a social or lunch club. In fact, there are many patterns for meetings. The style varies with the locale, and some of those locales are pretty unique, in and of themselves. Rotary now includes 1.2 million members in 33,000 clubs all over the world. Wherever Rotarians meet, there is a common theme that extends throughout all the international variations.

The object of Rotary is a set of principles that guides our actions. It formally relates that the purpose of our gathering together is to build acquaintance as an opportunity for service. Service is emphasized as vital throughout our business, personal and community lives. Rotary is also unique in its intended membership. Local clubs should be formed from business and professional men and women from varied vocations. The Rotary Club is for community leaders—those who may have the influence and resources to put to work in bettering the areas in which they live. As each club works in its own community and then joins hands with other clubs around the world, we hope that we are reaching out to build world peace.

Here in Bainbridge, our Rotary Club had its beginnings in 1937. One of the first activities was a trip to the International Convention in a thriving Havana, Cuba. Boy, have things changed!

But, as the expression goes, the more things change, the more things stay the same. Over the last 74 years, our club has been continuously involved in helping our neighbors in Bainbridge, Decatur County and all around the world.

For many years now, we have participated in the Georgia Rotary Student Program. We provide funds, friendship and facilities each year to bring an international student into our area. This year, that student is Maryana Khrupa from the Ukraine. She is interested in international business and is matriculating at Valdosta State University. We are optimistic enough to think that once she knows us, she will always remember that we are caring people.

This year, our club is also very involved in supporting a health outreach in Kilifi, Kenya. We have joined together with several other Rotary clubs in our district to provide communication equipment that will facilitate the operations of the local medical workers in rural Kenya. The goal is to work toward improving the health of the entire region.

In previous years, our projects have helped to build wells in other sections of Africa. The secret to basic health improvement in many areas is simply to provide clean water! Something we take for granted each day is our guarantee of fresh, clean water and adequate sewage facilities. That is just not the case in much of the world. As an international organization, and as a local club, we feel a calling to help share our wealth and guidance in answering the need. Every day, all over the world, mothers are in pain as they watch their children die because of infections that are spread by unclean, contaminated water. One of these infections is polio.

Eradicate polio

Back in the early 1980s, because Rotarians and others had all lived through the polio epidemic, the pain and the disabilities attributable to polio were fresh on the minds of all Americans and Rotarians around the world. Rotary International turned this pain into a commitment to the eradication of polio from the planet.

Such an undertaking had never before been initiated.

In 1985, with Rotary at the center, a partnership was formed with the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Center for Disease Control. Through the outreach, experience and capabilities of our partners, we have made great strides. Over the years, Rotary has raised nearly $800 million for the effort. We have now extended our partnership once again, due to the generosity of the Gates Foundation. With a commitment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of $350 million, Rotary has pledged to raise another $200 million. This addition will represent a total of well over a billion dollars that will have been spent to eradicate polio.

Where once polio was killing and maiming children, there is now hope due to the efforts of Rotary. Rotary is indeed committed, and Rotary has pledged to continue the fight until we have a polio-free world. This year, our local Rotary Club continues to be involved in the effort, doing our part to raise funds. We are financially supporting this greatest of attacks, in the name of the children of the world!

As the Bainbridge Rotary Club approaches our initial Casino Night fund-raiser, we wanted Bainbridge and Decatur County to know that we are active and beneficent stewards of our resources. We are integral parts of this community and we strive to represent you well, as we reach out all over the world to other communities in need.