Rotary continues to be leader in biz of good works


By Peter Thomson

Friday, April 21, 2017

Almost every Monday nowadays about 1 p.m. at The Pines, the bell at the podium is rung and the Elizabeth City Rotary club is convened. After the Pledge of Allegiance, a song and the invocation, members sit down for lunch, fellowship, information and a program pertinent to the membership.

Since April 22,1922, business and government leaders have gathered this way, celebrating student achievement, giving awards for Coast Guard leadership, getting the news of the day, and planning good works. This has traditionally been a place where future civic plans are formed or discarded, where area problems and opportunities are discussed. From this club came the Hertford Rotary Club in 1925, clubs in Edenton, Manteo and elsewhere. The Elizabeth City club was the first Rotary Club in the Albemarle and remains one of the largest.

Most Fridays at 7 a.m., one side of the Golden Corral is open so that the Elizabeth City Morning Rotary Club can gather for breakfast. While the Morning Club is a 1985 offshoot of the original club, the clubs celebrate both their similarity of purpose and their differences. The timing of the meeting tells you a lot. The original 1 p.m. group is perhaps more issue-oriented while the 7 a.m. group seems more energetic and proactive, performing more activities and local projects. They want to get in, get it on and get around.

Both clubs participate in the business, academic and charitable life of Elizabeth City. Both ring bells for the Salvation Army, provide many scholarships to graduating high school seniors, support local educational and arts enterprises, and help young people in a number of ways by sponsoring Boy Scout troops and Junior Rotary clubs. They provide a way for people who want to contribute to the community and meet folks with the same interests in an informal atmosphere. (First names only please, no titles.) Formed originally as clubs for businessmen, this is all changed and both clubs have been led by women presidents.

From time to time the two clubs combine for social events or local projects, and sometimes join regional clubs in a larger mission. But what binds them together with the thousands of other Rotary clubs around the world is the Rotary Foundation. Through the foundation, local club members contribute to Alzheimer’s research, to eradicating polio (they now have a 99-percent success rate), to The Mercy Ship and the Wheelchair Foundation. These efforts help people around the world have clean water; provide disaster relief through special kits of instant homes; and promote better understanding around the world through projects like having young people from Germany, Japan, Mexico and elsewhere come here to exchange ideas and learn.

2017 is the 100th anniversary of the Rotary Foundation, named the World’s Outstanding Foundation for 2016 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. It’s what every Rotarian contributes to every year. Started with a donation of $26.50, it’s now worth over $1 billion. That’s a billion with a “B.”

So Rotarians around the Albemarle, the state, the country and the world are celebrating by giving more and doing more. There’s still that nasty 1 percent of polio at large. Places still need clean water and help with hospitals and clinics. The world is looking to Rotary for help. And with fun and fellowship, social activities and shared projects, Rotary will be there to provide it.