Published On: Mon, Feb 29th, 2016

Happy Birthday Rotarians, Thanks for Making a Difference

Of the more than 300 columns I have penned to date, this is by far one that I am most proud of.

The subject is near and dear to me as it is something in which I strongly believe and strive to use the principles as a guide to how I live my life.

Rotarians here in Boca Raton and Delray Beach as well as in more than 200 countries are celebrating a milestone this week. They’re observing the 111th birthday of Rotary International – the world’s first organization based solely on service.

For full disclosure, I was a member of the Rotary Club of Delray Beach-Sunrise from its inception in 1987 until it went defunct in 2014. I still visit several clubs but I am not an active member only because there is not a club that fits into my hectic schedule.

It was on Feb. 23, 1905 that a lawyer, named Paul Harris, met with three friends for lunch in Evanston, Illinois, and decided they should come up with a way to give back to the community that had allowed them to become successful.

They met weekly at each other’s office so they decided to call it the Rotary Club. That tradition continues today with Rotarians breaking bread weekly at what Harris called “a family table” in an upbeat spirit of goodwill. They often invite speakers who inform them of needs in the community.

Chances are you know a Rotarian. They are your neighbors and community leaders of all professions – CEOs, sales managers, elected officials, police officers, school teachers – all united for the common good to better your community.  

Locally, Rotarians are credited with sponsoring the annual OPAL Awards, providing meals to the homebound and awarding scholarships. They also buy and distribute dictionaries to third graders in our elementary schools. In other communities, Rotarians build parks, provide prosthesis for people who have lost a limb, deliver potable water for villages without and even provide animals or seeds for farmers.

The six Rotary Clubs of Boca Raton and one in Delray Beach are a part of Rotary International, which has 1.2 million members in more than 33,000 clubs nationwide. In keeping with its motto, “Service Above Self,” the organization focuses on six areas: Promoting peace and conflict resolution, disease prevention and treatment, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, basic education and literacy and growing local economies.

Rotary can claim the most success on the “fighting disease” front. Thanks to its Polio Plus program, launched in 1988, polio is close to being the second human disease in history after smallpox to be eradicated; it is already 99 percent gone. In recent years with help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, there were only 37 cases left in the world: 29 in Pakistan and eight in Afghanistan.  

The local clubs do their part by contributing money each year. In fact, the Rotary Club of Delray Beach, which was chartered 68 years ago, has donated more than $65,000 to the campaign. That club, which began with 27 members at the Colony Hotel under the sponsorship of the Rotary Club of Boynton Beach, observed its birthday earlier this month on Feb.10.

My former club was started as the Rotary Club of Delray Beach West to serve the western areas of the city. It later changed its name to the Sunset club after we began meeting in the evening and finally to the Sunrise when we returned to being a morning club.

I recall us building homes with Habitat for Humanity, replacing the roof and closing in a pool at the Association for Retarded Citizens’ home in Delray Beach, installing smoke detectors in a few homes and conducting numerous toys, clothing and food drives around the city. We sold ice cream and water at the annual Delray Affair for many years sponsored the annual July 4th Sand sculpting contest on the beach. One hundred percent of the proceeds funded the dozens of four-year scholarships we awarded Atlantic High School graduates.

It is evident that Rotarians have strengthened our communities, built lasting relationships, solved problems and benefited countless residents. Thank you for your efforts in bettering this place we call home. Happy Birthday fellow Rotarians!

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