By Ava Benedict
Rotary International has been a symbol of service and giving back for over a century. With over 1.4 million members and 47 million volunteer hours each year, the Rotary Club has helped to foster major change within our world. From helping to eradicate polio to providing clean drinking water in underdeveloped countries, Rotary has become a beacon of hope and prosperity throughout the globe. But what is Rotary truly about?
The Rotary Club was originally founded in 1905 by Paul Harris as a way to create social bonds between community members. It soon evolved into a platform for change focused on creating healthy environments for all people in every part of the world. Since its founding, Rotary has expanded to new heights and implemented new goals. Now, local Rotary Clubs meet and discuss relevant issues within their communities that can be addressed through volunteer work. Its motto, “Service Above Self,” represents the main goal of modern Rotary: to make a difference in the world. In Florida alone, there are over 500 active Rotary Clubs that participate in a wide variety of events.
Recently, the Brandon Rotary Club hosted a Teddy Bear Drive for the Rough Riders to give to children in the hospitals within the Tampa Bay area. These toys make a big difference within children’s lives, allowing them a sense of comfort during difficult times. Service projects play an integral role within Rotary, as these events encourage giving back and creating change within the community. Some service projects by local chapters include the landscaping of Burns Middle School by the Interact Club of Tampa Bay and an upcoming trip to build homes in Honduras by the FishHawk-Riverview Rotary Club.
Rotary is not religiously or politically affiliated and welcomes people from every background and walk of life, all with the purpose of providing service to those in need. The clubs meet both in-person and online. Some are cause-based clubs, while others are geographically based. However, joining a Rotary Club is not necessary to become involved. Field experts are needed in Rotary Action Groups and anyone can join a Rotary Fellowship in their interest areas, as these are both online international groups. The Rotary Foundation is always in need of contributions to create even more impact within the world.
Rotary is an extremely rewarding experience that allows anyone and everyone to make a difference. For those interested in joining a Rotary Club in their area, visit the Rotary International website at www.rotary.org/en or the Rotary International Facebook page.