Founded on May 15, 1950, the Brattleboro Rotary Club is celebrating its 60th anniversary this month. A proclamation was read and signed by Brattleboro Selectboard members on May 4, honoring the club for its history and achievements. They proclaimed the week of May 10-16, 2010, as Brattleboro Rotary Week.
 
The Brattleboro Club is part of Rotary International, the world's first service club formed on February 23, 1905 by Paul P. Harris, an attorney who wished to capture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he had felt in the small towns of his youth in Vermont. The Rotary name derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members' offices.

Rotary's popularity spread, and within a decade, clubs were chartered from San Francisco to New York to Winnipeg, Canada. By 1921, Rotary clubs had been formed on six continents. As Rotary grew, its mission expanded beyond serving club members' professional and social interests. Rotarians began pooling their resources and contributing their talents to help serve communities in need. The organization's dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its motto: Service Above Self. Today, 1.2 million Rotarians belong to over 32,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.

One of the biggest focuses of Rotary International is working to eliminate polio. The organization has worked closely with World Health Organization (WHO) and the Gates Foundation in this effort.

"Rotary pretty much has polio eliminated except for two or three countries," said Brattleboro Rotary Club President Jeff Morse. Rotary International has been working to raise $200 million to match $355 million in grants from the Gates Foundation. This will provide $555 million to combat polio worldwide. In 2009, the Brattleboro Rotary Club and the Sunrise Rotary Club (which was founded by the Brattleboro Club in 1995) conducted an "Indian Film and Food Festival" that raised $8,500 towards the matching grant.

Still, polio isn't the only focus of Rotary International. It also targets literacy and clean water. Rotarians have gone to various corners of the world to help map out well locations and provide water filters. In fact, the roots of Pure Water for the World (PWW) began in Brattleboro itself in 1994 when Peter Abell, a member of the Brattleboro Rotary Club, volunteered to go to a small Salvadoran village to provide medical services. Abell was moved by the poor living conditions and vowed to make a difference and do something. 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 activities soon outgrew the capacity of the 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. Pure Water for the World works in remote regions of developing countries that lack sustainable clean, safe drinking water. PWW works with local governments and community partners to select, analyze the appropriate technology for the community, and to implement cost effective projects.

This year, the Brattleboro Rotary Club is partnering with the Rotary Club of San Miguel de Allende-Midday in the State of Guanajuato, Mexico, to support Casita Linda. Casita Linda (which means "pretty little house") is a Mexican nonprofit organization that builds 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. On November 7, 2010, the Brattleboro Club will be hosting a "Mexican Film and Food Festival to raise funds for the Casita Linda project.

At the local level, the Brattleboro Rotary Club reaches out to support a number of projects and organizations in the community with cash and in-kind work. For instance, it helped the Christmas Stocking build a new, larger space; painted the Senior Center's walls in the Gibson-Aiken Center; helped Habitat for Humanity build and place 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.

Since 1965, the club has been raising funds via its annual Christmas tree sale, which primarily supports high school scholarships. Eight $3,000 scholarships totaling $24,000 are awarded each year to graduating seniors 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, this year on June 10th at the Brattleboro Country Club. Proceeds from this year's tournament will benefit three local projects: the Vernon Recreation Department Playground Restoration, the Boys and Girls Club of Brattleboro, and the Rotary Club's Gateway Scholarships for high school seniors. In recent years, Living Memorial Park has benefited by the addition of playground equipment replacement, a water park, bleachers for the Nelson Withington Ice Skating Rink, an outdoor theater stage, and snowmaking "guns" for the ski slope.

The Club also has a gift-giving program that awards limited donations (generally $100-$500) to approximately 30 nonprofit social service agencies each year.

"We help as many nonprofit organizations as we can, either through donation of money or time," Morse said.

The Brattleboro Rotary Club has about 90 members. Rotary members throughout the world follow the same four-way test, which poses these questions: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

The Brattleboro Rotary Club has weekly meetings at 12:15 p.m. Thursdays at the VFW Post (40 Black Mountain Road) in Brattleboro.

 
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