BANDON - As with other service organizations along the South Coast, Rotary clubs have a history of helping their communities thrive. Service Above Self is Rotary's motto and club members pledge to apply the 4-Way Test to all they do, asking the questions: Is it the truth, is it fair to all concerned, does it build goodwill and better friendships, and will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Most Rotary clubs have a fifth question they ask: Will it be fun?
Friendships and fun and an opportunity to give back are what have keep Rotarians coming together since 1905 to create positive lasting change in their communities around the world. With 1.2 million Rotarians worldwide in 33,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries, it's no surprise they make an impact.
Rotary International 2019-20 president Mark Maloney's theme is "Rotary Connects the World."
“The first emphasis is to grow Rotary — to grow our service, to grow the impact of our projects, but most importantly, to grow our membership so that we can achieve more," Maloney said.
With those goals in mind, local Rotary Clubs are effecting change. While each club has its own personality, many of their projects have similar themes that go along with Rotary's five areas of service: peace and conflict resolution, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy, and economic and community development.
In the past few years, Bandon-By-The-Sea Rotary's support of international projects has included drilling wells and improving water systems in villages in Uganda, planting fruit trees in African village schools that provide fresh fruit to be used to raise money for schools, helping prevent birth defects in Ethiopia, maternal and child healthcare in Thailand and healthcare in Malawi.
Many local clubs, including Bandon's, have purchased ShelterBoxes to provide emergency shelter wherever disasters or conflicts have occurred.
In addition to international projects, Bandon supports their local and South Coast communities with projects such as Shoes that Fit to replace worn shoes for school children; support of the Start Making a Reader Today (SMART) program; and financial support of the Kids' HOPE Center, to help prevent and raise awareness of child abuse.
Bandon Rotary also supports local schools with funds for the speech and debate and sports teams, travel to choir and band competitions and support of the Community 101 program that enables students to learn first-hand how their efforts can help others.
Scholarships are something all Rotary clubs along the South Coast support - for high school seniors as well as non-traditional students re-entering the workforce.
The Port Orford Rotary Club routinely gives many large scholarships to graduating seniors of Pacific High School, including more than $19,000 this year alone. Those scholarships are funded by Rotary members and the community, who support the many Rotary fundraisers throughout the year.
The Coos Bay-North Bend Rotary Club took over sponsorship of the Coos County Community Concert Association a few years ago. CCCCA brings professional musicians and performers to the area who put on concerts at the Egyptian Theatre. The club also awards scholarships and supports many local and international projects, again with a focus on youth.
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The Myrtle Point Rotary Club holds a hugely successful fundraiser each year to raise funds for scholarships and other community projects.
All of the local clubs send high school students to the Rotary Youth Leadership Association (RYLA) camp, held each June near Dorena Lake, where students learn and practice leadership skills and form strong and often lasting bonds with other teens.
And several clubs also host an Interact Club in local high schools to help students learn early the concept of Service Above Self. In addition, students and adults have opportunities to go on Rotary Friendship Exchange trips to learn about other cultures, or to host Rotarians who come from other countries to visit.
Two years ago, all of the South Coast Rotary clubs, along with Southwestern Oregon Community College, came together to sponsor the Gift of Literacy program, an event that brings all of the first-graders on the South Coast — a total of 650 children — together at the college campus to participate in activities that get them excited about reading. All the kids leave with a new hardcover book and a swag bag of literacy related goodies. This year, the event drew 680 first-graders.
In May, Rotary District 5110 held its yearly district conference at The Mill Casino-Hotel and RV Park, which drew Rotarians from as far away as Eugene, Medford, Northern California and Bend to hear speakers, participate in projects and spend a weekend with other Rotarians.
Past District Governor Bill Grile has been a Rotarian for many years, in both Eugene and Coos Bay clubs.
"Serving as our District Governor (last) year is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever been privileged to do," Grile said. "Rotary changes lives. It has mine."
Bandon Rotary past-president Diane Buche, whose husband Dave is this year's club president, taught in Myrtle Point and Bandon schools, retiring as the Bandon School District superintendent.
"I joined to make a difference in the community I worked in and I love the fellowship and friendship it provides," Buche said.
While the club has been a part of many great projects, Buche is particularly fond of the literacy projects: Gift of Literacy, books for preschoolers and the club's weekly donation of a book signed by each speaker to the elementary school library.
"As a school administrator, I saw first-hand the support our schools received from Rotary, from high school senior scholarships, to providing books to our library, to supporting students activities like Community 101, sending students to leadership conferences and helping students attend state competitions in band and vocal," Buche said.
"Rotary continues to support our schools and our community," she added.
To learn more about Rotary, visit www.district5110.org/.