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What Rotary Really Means

District Governor Penny Atkinson, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

I’ve been a Rotarian for over 20 years. Our club is lighthearted and fun loving. Simply attending our weekly meetings is an experience you won’t forget. As program chair, I’m proud of our weekly speakers. But a few times a year there are those really special meetings – the ones that leave you with a great feeling in your heart for what we do as Rotarians in the Park City Rotary Club.

We hear about Rotary often. But sometimes the words don’t penetrate. Rotary is about eliminating polio. It’s about building schools and libraries in underserved villages. It’s providing water for kids. And it’s about making our community an better place to live.

At our meeting this week, Rotarian Larry Warren, now manager of our community radio station KPCW, decided to spice up an otherwise slow fundraising hour with a Rotary challenge between the two clubs in town. In an hour where he normally raised just $500, our two clubs pitched in nearly $7,000!

Problem is, our club was about $675 short of victory. So when Sergeant at ArmsĀ  for the day Rabbi Josh came to the podium, he did a little fundraising on his own. And in the space of two minutes, we topped another $700 from the room. Boy were we proud!

One of the more projects we undertake each year is recognizing members of our community as Citizens of the Year. Our community has a great history, as a mining town and a resort. Recently, our Park City Museum had a major facelift. It now offers an amazing trail through our past for the thousands of visitors who walk Main Street every year. But the re-creation of our heritage wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the amazing work of two Park City women who spearheaded an $8-million+ fundraising drive, Sydney Reed and Lynn Fey, our Citizens of the Year. Sydney and Lynn are examples of why this is such a great town.

A few years ago we also began honoring professional work to benefit our community. It was a very proud and emotional club member Jerry Gibbs who was able to honor his longtime colleagues Destry Pollard and Kent Cashel for their amazing work on our Park City Transit system.

Somehow we managed to find just enough time to hear from our District Governor Penny Atkinson, whose husband Kelly was governor just a few years ago. If there were any tears of pride left in the room, they were gone after hearing from Penny.

She told us about how Rotary International approached the World Health Organization in 1985 and said, ‘we want to eliminate polio.’ The WHO laughed. They aren’t laughing now. Today, thanks to Rotary’s Polio Plus program, there are only four nations in the world with polio cases (possibly dropping to three soon). And total cases are down from 300,000 to just a few hundred. Rotary made a difference.

She told the story about visiting a village in South America and seeing a young boy with a bottle of what looked like apple juice. It wasn’t. It was his drinking water. A neighboring village had had a water system installed by Rotary some years earlier. A villager stopped her and said, ‘thank you for what you did. Our children aren’t dying any more.’

And finally there was the story of the young girl from Russia – one of 22 Rotary exchange students Penny and Kelly have hosted. Each month the students got $100 from Rotary. It could be spent on clothes, electronics, fun things or daily needs. But the Russian girl didn’t rush off to the mall. And she didn’t say much about what she did with her $100 each month.

What she did was save it. After all, it was more than her parents made in two months. And her father was dying. She saved it all and took it home to help pay for surgery – a surgery which gave her father five more years to live. Today, she’s emigrated to Utah to be with the friends who helped to make that possible.

From the work we do in Park City to our projects in Central America to what we contribute to the good of Rotary International, there are many reasons to be proud to be a Rotarian. We felt them deeply in our hearts this week. Rotary does make a difference.

And I’m sure that as I’m writing this this morning, our friends at Park City’s Sunrise Rotary Club are matching our own fundraising efforts for the good of our wonderful community.

Welcome to Rotary.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

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Rotary Club Picnic

Our Park City Rotary Club probably doesn’t fit the stereotype of most clubs. You’ll never see a tie, and you’re just as likely to see us meeting on picnic tables in the park as in our weekly luncheon at The Grub Steak in Park City. So it’s no surprise that one of our most popular meetings has become our annual presidential induction, where we cook chicken and burgers in the park and watch our leaders conduct the secret ceremonial service. This week our good friend and Catholic pastor Fr. Bob Bussen turned the honors over to new President Joe Cronley, a former Navy submariner who is now a local submariner.

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The annual Tuesday evening picnic was also an opportunity to induct new members, including longtime friend and former USSA colleague Todd Burnette and new friend Alex Butwinski. It was a fun night organized by Michael O’Hara with help from Rotary Park advocate Mac MacQuoid, who once again gave us the great history of this beautiful hidden gem built by the club in the early ’80s.

And as with every Rotary project, there was the requisite crisis. Yes, it was Election Day. No, it wasn’t about Rotarians voting – it was the fact that the state liquor stores were closed and an urgent appeal went out to Rotarians to BYO. So a quick dash to the cellars produced a wonderful array of bottles, including some renegade Two-Buck-Chuck.

The ceremony itself has become an attraction, regardless of who is being inducted. A traditional ceremonial hat, started several presidencies ago, is passed with honor from old to new – adorned with artifacts to celebrate the new leader. In honor of President Cronley, President Bussen attached a yellow submarine in recognition of Joe’s service under the sea for the Navy, along with a Notre Dame memento. The hat came with a staff – no not administrative people, but a six-foot pole adorned with an icon ‘acquired’ from the 2007 Rotary World Conference held in Salt Lake City.

On the service side, and that’s what Rotary is about, it was a chance to remind ourselves of the great work we do – from the projects outlined by Joe for the year ahead to the impromptu thank you message from deserving local leader Tom Cammermeyer from the Norwegian Outdoor Center.

Thanks, Father Bob, for a fabulous year. And good luck Joe, as you work this year to remind of us our great roots as a club over the past 25+ years.