January is Rotary Awareness Month

It’s a New Year, and a perfect time to consider all of life’s new possibilities!

Have you been considering doing something new with your life this year . . .maybe joining a service club that helps people both in your local community and people all over the world?  Most people have heard about Rotary, but not as many know the incredible advantages of becoming a Rotarian.  Since January is “Rotary Awareness Month,” I thought I would share just a few of them with you. 

The Opportunity to Serve  Rotarians provide service at both the community and international levels. Service programs address health-care needs, hunger and poverty, illiteracy, disaster relief, and environmental cleanups, to name a few. Members experience the fulfillment that comes from giving back to the community. 

Professional Networking  A founding principle of Rotary was to provide a forum for professional and business leaders. Members are leaders in business, industry, the professions, the arts, government, sports, the military, and religion. They make decisions and influence policy. Rotary is the oldest, most prestigious service club organization in the world. 

Personal Growth and Development  Membership in Rotary ensures continuing personal and professional development. Leadership, public speaking and communication, organization and planning, team-building, fundraising, and teaching are just a sampling of the skills that can be exercised and enhanced through Rotary.

Friendship  Fellowship was a primary reason Rotary was started in 1905, and it remains a major attraction. Today, with more than 31,000 Rotary clubs in over 165 countries, Rotarians have friends wherever they go. Rotary helps to build community as well as enduring friendships.

Cultural Diversity  Rotary International is an association of local clubs in many countries. Clubs are open to members of every ethnic group, political persuasion, language, and religious belief. Rotary clubs contain a cross-section of the world’s leaders. They practice and promote tolerance.

Good Citizenship  Membership in Rotary makes one a better citizen. Weekly Rotary club programs keep members informed about what is taking place in the community, nation, and world.  Rotary’s expansive network of clubs and programs provides extensive opportunities for service and interchange. 

World Understanding  Rotary members gain an understanding of humanitarian issues and have a significant impact on them through international service projects and exchange programs of RI and its Foundation. The promotion of peace is one of Rotary’s highest objectives.

Entertainment  Every Rotary club and district hosts parties and activities that offer diversion from one’s personal and business life. Conferences, conventions, assemblies, and social events provide entertainment as well as Rotary information, education, and service.

Family Foundations  Rotary sponsors some of the world’s largest youth exchange and educational exchange and scholarship programs. Rotary clubs provide innovative training opportunities and mentoring for future leaders. They involve family members in a wide range of social and service activities.

Ethical Environment  Rotarians practice a 4-Way Test that measures words and actions by their truthfulness, fairness, goodwill, and benefit to all. Encouraging high ethical standards in one’s profession and respect for all worthy vocations has been a hallmark of Rotary from its earliest days.

 So there you have it!  There’s lots of advantages to being a Rotarian.  If you would like more information, contact a local Rotary Club in your area.  Go to www.rotary.org.

                                                   posted by: Jennifer Rose, Fairfax Rotary Club Secretary


Do Americans Spend More on Charity in Hard Times?

This is almost unbelievable, but I recently read an article in Harvard Business Review that stated “In Hard Times, Americans Spend More on Charity and Cigarettes.”
Knowing how hard all of us Rotarians work to raise money for the important causes Rotary supports, I thought this was kind of good news (the support of charities, not necessarily the cigarettes!)

The article went on to say that in a recession that shrinks GDP by 2%, consumers increase their charitable expenses by 32%—about the same proportion by which they reduce their expenditures on jewelry and watches (35%), according to Wagner A. Kamakura of Duke University and Rex Yuxing Du of the University of Houston, who studied purchases by more than 66,000 U.S. households over two decades. Consumers also increase their tobacco expenditures by 16%. People are more likely to start smoking (and resume smoking after quitting) in recessions than in good times, the researchers say.

Source: How Economic Contractions and Expansions Affect Expenditure Patterns

posted by:  Susan Ireland, Fairfax Rotary Club member

Service Above Self

Recently, I was attending a Rotary meeting, enjoying breakfast and the fellowship of my fellow Rotarians, when I was reminded of one of the reasons I love this organization.  Our guest speaker, Scott Mills, a fellow Rotarian (and wonderful person I might add) shared a story with us that really touched my heart.  I thought I would share it with you:

Jamal was still being carried in his mother’s arms when Rotarians came to his village to begin giving him the pink drops that would ensure he would never contract the crippling disease polio.  While his country has been certified “polio free,” isolated outbreaks occasionally still occur.   For Jamal and his playmates, however, a much more persistant and insidious killer stalks the small children of his village.  It’s harbored in the very life-sustaining water that their mothers carry to the village each morning on their heads from pools and streams several miles away.  Their source of clean water is scarce, and the water that IS available often is polluted by runoff from cattle or municipal waste.  Many days, Jamal, now almost three, plays in the streets of his village naked from the waist down because of the  persistent diarrhea that eventually may cause his wasting and death if his village doesn’t develop a clean, reliable source of water.  Hundeds of children in his village have already died.  It’s a situation we here in the U.S. should never tolerate, and neither would Jamal’s mother if she had any other options.

All over the world, more than 24,000 children will die today — most, like Jamal, are under age five.  One thousand children will die in the time it takes most of us to mow our lawns this week.  Yet, most of these deaths are entirely preventable.

Fortunately for Jamal and the other children of his village, hope is already on its way.  Two years ago, work began on a three-year, multi-phased Rotary Foundation-funded project to bring clean, mountain spring water to the village of Wum, Cameroon.  This project was spearheaded by a Charlottesville, VA Rotarian named Tom Dunnells with funding from the Rotary Foundation, using plans developed through an enterprising design contest by engineering students at the University of Virginia.  In one day, with the help of local Cameroon Rotarians, Jamal’s own mother and other village residents assisted in digging the trench from their village up the side of a mountain so that pipes for the gravity-fed water main can be installed to bring the clean water to Wam. 

This is just one example of what Rotarians do . . .we restore a sense of safety and security for people in need.  Through the volunteer work of the over 1.2 million Rotarians world-wide and their contributions to the Rotary Foundation, lives of people we will never see are changed for the better in hundreds of ways.  Hence, our motto:  Service Above Self.

Did you know?  The Rotary Foundation is distinguished from all other organizations because 100% of donations to the Annual Programs Fund supports the humanitarian and educational programs of Rotarians.  Donations to the Rotary Foundation go even further than most other non-profit organizations because they support projects that are administered by local Rotarian business and community leaders who put volunteer energies into the improvement of communities and the lives of people who live in them. 

Did you also know?  Independent evaluator, Charity Navigator, ranks The Rotary Foundation as No. 4 on its list of “10 Best Charities Everyone’s Heard Of,” saying “These 10 Charities became household names in part because of their exceptional financial management, no easy feat considering the scope and size of their operations.  Charitable givers should feel confident that these national institutions put their donations to good use.”

Service Above Self.  If you are looking for a way to bring some balance to your life, and help people in need at the same time, do what I did.  Attend a local Rotary meeting and see how you can help.  You’ll be glad you did.  For info on finding a Rotary Club near you, go to www.rotary.org.



Give of Yourself

Give of Yourself

The year was 1986 and I was a volunteer on the Civic Affairs Committee at my local Association of REALTORS®. Every year, we collected hundreds of nominations from disadvantaged families seeking help with home repair. On this particular day, a home in a small neighborhood in Jacksonville, FL was chosen and off we went – me and my buddies — armed with sanding tools, paint, brushes, and all the other necessary things we’d need to repaint the outside of a home.

We arrived early and set right to work. About mid-morning, I noticed a silver-haired lady peeking through the kitchen window at me. I knew she was the owner – I’d read her profile and learned she was in her 80’s; a widow who lived alone and relied on friends to help her get along. Her family lived far away. I waved, but as soon as I did, she disappeared! I didn’t think much of it until later in the day when we all took a break in the backyard and sat under a big tree to rest and eat lunch. No sooner had we sat down, than we noticed the back door open and out came the old women with a pitcher of lemonade and glasses on a tray. She quickly set them on the back step and disappeared again into the house. One of our group went up to the door and knocked; we wanted to thank her for her generosity. But she didn’t answer. We enjoyed the lemonade and soon after went back to our painting.

I started wondering about the women. How long had she lived here? How many children did she have? Did they visit? A little voice inside kept telling me to knock on the door and meet her, but I was afraid of disturbing her – it was obvious she didn’t want to talk to us as she didn’t answer the door earlier.

The day flew by and before I knew it, it was after 7p.m.  Time to clean the paint brushes, pack our supplies, and get ready to head out. But, that little voice was getting louder and louder. I summoned the courage to knock on the front door. No answer. I knocked again, and was just about to turn around and head for my car, when all of a sudden – there she was! She opened the door with a big smile on her face and invited me in. I felt butterflies in my stomach – why was I so nervous? She invited me to sit down in the tiny living room and immediately began to cry. She said she was so happy and grateful to us for giving her house a new coat of paint. Her name was Mrs. Carson and she’d lived in the house for over 60 years . . . she and her husband had moved there as newlyweds and raised a family of 4 children in that house. Like the last bit of water draining from our washtubs outside, pretense was gone quickly. We shared stories of love, friendship, fear and loss. She even told me a joke or two! She told me that never before had she felt so gifted . . .the gift of that simple coat of paint. She became my gift. She had healing powers of love. What a wonderful impression she left on me.

I’ve never forgotten Mrs. Carson – although I never again corresponded with her. But I’ve carried her gift with me and today, I am fortunate to help others in need through my work with Rotary.

What ways do you give of yourself? Keep track in a notebook this week of the ways you give and ways you’d like to. Some of the ways could be: smiling, sharing jokes, baking homemade goodies for friends and neighbors, doing a chore for your spouse or partner unexpectedly, listening with full attention, a handwritten letter, donating blood, writing a note of appreciation to a co-worker. Just give of yourself today.