Rotary International, along with its various clubs throughout the world, has established January as Rotary Awareness Month. 
According to Brattleboro Rotary Club President Cindy Jerome, "A lot of people don't know about all the good work Rotary International does locally and around the world. We want to get the word out."

One of the biggest focuses of the international organization is collaborating with its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) -- the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- to eliminate polio. Rotary International has been working to raise $200 million to match $355 million in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This will provide $555 million to combat polio worldwide. To help the effort, the Brattleboro Rotary Club conducted an "Indian Film and Food Festival" in 2009 that raised $8,500 toward the matching grant. (India is one of the four remaining countries still reporting cases of polio. Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are the other three.)

In 2010, the Brattleboro Rotary Club successfully hosted yet another International Film and Food Festival, this time highlighting Mexico in an effort to raise funds to build adobe brick homes for families who are among the poorest of the poor in San Miguel de Allende and the surrounding areas in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. Working through the Mexican nonprofit Casita Linda (which means "pretty little house"), our Club and students from the Windham Regional Career Center will be going to San Miguel de Allende in April 2011 to build a home for a Mexican family with the funds we raised.

Another accomplishment of the Brattleboro Rotary Club was founding Pure Water for the World (PWW), which began in 1994 when Brattleboro Rotary Club member Peter Abell volunteered to go to a small Salvadoran village to provide medical services. Abell was struck by the poor living conditions and vowed to make a difference. With the support of the Brattleboro Rotary Club, Abell decided to help the people by providing rural villages with potable water.

The success and interest of the club's PWW activities soon outgrew the capacity of one Rotary club. As a result, Pure Water for the World, Inc., was set up as a 501(c)(3) organization to carry out this important humanitarian effort. PWW works in remote regions of developing countries that lack sustainable clean, safe drinking water. PWW works with local governments and community partners to select sites, analyze the appropriate technology for the community, and implement cost effective projects.

More locally, the Brattleboro Rotary Club uses funds raised from its annual Christmas tree sales primarily for high school scholarships. Eight $3,000 scholarships totaling $24,000 are awarded each year to students from Brattleboro Union High School, the Windham Regional Career Center, Hinsdale High School, and Leland & Gray Union High School.

The club also raises funds by way of its annual Golf Tournament. Proceeds from that event benefit significant local projects. In recent years, those projects have primarily been for Living Memorial Park: playground equipment replacement, water park, bleachers at Withington Ice Skating Rink, outdoor theater stage, and most recently, snowmaking "guns" for the ski slope.

In addition, the club supports a number of projects in the community, both large and small with cash and in-kind labot. For instance, club members helped the Christmas Stocking clothing project build a new, larger space; painted the Senior Center's walls in the Gibson-Aiken Center; helped Habitat for Humanity build and erect a new home for a local family; built a new deck on the Rotary-Kiwanis Shelter at Living Memorial Park; and built a handicapped access ramp at Youth Services, Inc. The Club has also provided funds each year to approximately 30 social service agencies.

"We do our best to somehow help nonprofit organizations in the greater Brattleboro area that need it," Jerome said.

Founded in 1950, the Brattleboro Rotary club has about 80 members who meet every Thursday at 12:15 p.m. at the VFW Post (40 Black Mountain Road) in Brattleboro. Rotarian members throughout the world follow the same four-way test: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

If you are interested in learning more about Rotary or attending a meeting, please contact the Brattleboro Rotary Club.