The Rotary Club of Florence has been an active force for good in the Florence area since it was founded in 1960. While Rotary International includes more than a million members, the local group has around 110, with 80 percent of those regularly participating in the weekly Rotary meetings, held Tuesdays at Florence Events Center.
Rotary’s theme for 2018-19 is “Be the Inspiration.” Rotary International President Barry Rassin said, “Because of our networks, which span the globe; our community presence, which allows us to see what’s most needed; and our expertise, which encompasses countless skills and professions, we’re able to be the inspiration as we help those who need us most.”
“With the Rotarians who are involved, it’s been a really inspirational year,” said Club President Mike Webb. “We’ve done a good job.”
Florence Rotarians often volunteer for numerous local and international events, donate to causes and raise awareness for important issues.
“It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great group to be involved with. The people really know how to put things together and really know when to jump in,” Webb said. “If there’s a crisis, there’s always someone ready and willing to step in and fill the hole. It’s been wonderful to work with people that are associated with Rotary. There’s never a dull moment — and never a shortage of capacity to help.”
For Webb, Rotary is a positive organization that influences both the local community and the global one.
“Rotarian Ron Caputo has been dynamic in inspiring some grant programs where we’ve helped with water projects. … Clean water is a good thing. We’ve been really behind the clean water project internationally,” he said.
One project the Florence Rotary is helping with is a $77,000 well project in South America, expected to provide water for 400 families.
“Our club is just a small part of that,” Webb added.
Rotarian Brian Holmes is also doing work in South America with his dental program in the Caribbean country of Grenada.
“We helped fund his travel down there so he could provide some additional dental work to disadvantaged kids. It was a very big need that he saw a need for,” Webb said.
Rotary’s focus on dental health isn’t just limited to foreign lands; the club also helps sponsor Holmes’ dental van in Mapleton and Florence.
With its emphasis on building international connections, Rotary plays host to exchange students each year. Rotarian families take turns hosting the students in their homes so they get the full experience of living in America. Eryk Rottmann, from Troisdorf, Germany, is this year’s student.
The club also works with youth by sponsoring Interact Clubs in Mapleton and Siuslaw high schools. Mirroring the main club, Interact organizes at least two service projects a year: one that benefits the community and one that encourages international understanding. The students also focus on volunteering and community involvement, often making appearances at Rotary’s weekly clubs and volunteering to help during the annual Rotary Auction each March.
“The Rotary Auction was successful this year,” Webb said. “The room seemed happy and people were enjoying themselves. Some people were pretty creative — the Star Trek people, the space people and the Hare Krishnas were unexpected.”
This year’s theme was “1969: Give Back to Where You Once Belonged,” so attendees dressed as hippies, astronauts and other thematic costumes.
“With our auction and our golf tournament, we raise money for the local scholarship program and local community,” Webb said. “We were able to help a little bit with the Twilight Program and help fund that, plus fund quite a few scholarships. It was a pretty good year.”
Florence Rotary plans events throughout the year, including the upcoming Community Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 20. The event is open to children and families, with the race to find the most eggs beginning promptly at 10 a.m.
The 10th annual Cool at the Coast Golf Tournament will be held this August. By September, Rotarians Kim Erickson and Kevin McMullen will begin working on the next Rotary Auction.
“All in all, for the auction we put in an excess of 1,000 hours of labor between all the meetings, and we probably have 40 people that are involved in one capacity or another. Out of a club of 110, that’s a pretty good turnout,” Webb said. “The whole process we go through builds part of the spirit of the club. Each time we’re going through these planning sessions and doing our work, it’s a social event. It’s how we build our camaraderie.”
According to Erickson, $1,631,394.41 has been raised by the auction since 1960.
So who should join Rotary?
“Anybody who is interested in leading this community, both personally and professionally, in ways that can make a difference in our community,” Webb said. “Anybody that is interested in building good friendships with some of the better people you run into.”
For more information, visit www.theflorencerotary.org.