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Rotary Clubs Serve Communities Across Territory, Around World

Jan. 21, 2009 — Whether honoring a local as person of the year, working worldwide in a battle to erase polio, adopting a school or simply taking the time to read to a group of school children, Rotary Clubs are an integral part of their communities.
Rotary International is the world's first service-club organization. Its more than 1.2 million members volunteer their time and talent to further its motto, "Service above self."
January is Rotary Awareness Month.
Rotary International began as a service club in Chicago, Ill., in 1905. The name "Rotary" came about because in the very beginning, the club held lunch meetings, rotating from one member's house to another. The purpose of the organization is to foster public service, peace and goodwill at home and abroad. One of the organization's highest-profile projects is a campaign to eliminate polio worldwide, an effort that — with the help of several other major partners — Rotarians say is now within reach.
The organization has helped more than 38,000 men and women from 100 countries to study abroad, under the Rotary Foundation, the club's oldest and best-known program, founded in 1947.
Today it is the world's largest privately funded international scholarship program. Nearly 800 scholarships were awarded for study in 2005-06. Through grants totaling approximately $500 million, recipients from about 70 countries studied in more than 70 nations.
And, closer to home, earlier this month Rotary volunteers came from Tortola, Puerto Rico, St. Croix, St. John and the Cayman Islands for two days of training and networking by the Rotary Leadership Institute. Roger White led several sessions of the seminar, while Diana White, his wife, coordinated the conference.
The English couple has an accumulated 55 years of Rotary service, here and around the world. They have belonged to clubs from England to Fiji in the South Pacific to Tortola. They are off to Haiti this weekend, Diana said, where they will bring 50 prosthetic hands, primarily for children who have lost their hands working in sugar-cane factories.
"We were in Uganda helping in a project to provide prosthesis for people hurt by land mines, Diana says. Through networking with other Rotarians, and raising money from the local clubs, White says the hands will be distributed.
Haiti is also the recipient of help from St. Croix Rotary Clubs, said David Beck, Rotary Club of St. Croix president.
"Rotary West has spearheaded a major food drive," Beck said. "We have a trailer of canned good that we're still filling to go to Haiti."
In all, Beck said, "The St. Croix clubs have raised more than $100,000 for Haiti disaster relief after last year's storms — not to go to government agencies, but directly to our Haiti Rotary clubs to distribute."
One of Rotary's most highly anticipated events on St. Thomas is the naming of its person of the year, traditionally announced by Elliott MacIver Davis. Whispers and speculation mount as Davis slyly leads up to the announcement each year. The winner of the Lladro statuette of Don Quixote is someone who "courageously struggles against all odds, and who has significantly affected, for the good, the course of events on the island."
Another of the club's more well-known activities is the Saturday 9 a.m. radio show on WVWI talking about activities of Rotary REACH ( Rotary Educating and Caring for Humanity) where Mary Gleason, Simon Caines, Lorraine Baa, Ida White, Marilyn Blackhall and others from various island clubs have fun talking about club activities and interviewing local or visiting personalities, who may have appeared as a guest speaker at one or another of the territory's 10 clubs.
Gleason, a long-time member of Rotary Club of St. Thomas, launched the "Baby, Think it Over" project in the island's schools, a program aimed at delaying teenage pregnancy while teaching proper infant care.
On Monday Rotary Club Sunrise, echoing its name and the call from President Obama for a day of service, got out at 8 a.m. to clean the basketball courts and playground at the Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School in Savan, where they filled a pickup truck with more than 10 large trash bags filled with everything from light pieces of paper to heavy-duty plastic bottles and tangles of weeds pulled from the courts' fence.
It was a small project, taking about an hour, said club President Thomas Boatwright, but it is indicative of the organization's larger, humanitarian outreach: "We're taking this opportunity and sharing in a dream — a dream that our schools are clean, safe and productive environments for our students."
Rotary Sunrise adopted the elementary school several years ago, where it helps with everything from repairs to reading to the students.
"I have a group of third graders that I adore, and who I get to read to every Tuesday," Boatwright said. "This is a small school that needs a lot of attention — not only in the physical aspects of the grounds and maintenance, but also in the education of the students."
For information on the V.I. Rotary Clubs, visit rotary.vi.
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