Eagle River Area Rotary: A steady, unswerving force for good
Quietly, without much fanfare, about four dozen Eagle River area folks are devoting part of their lives to improving the lives of others — not only here in Eagle River — but in far-flung areas across the world.
As members of the Eagle River Area Rotary Club, founded in 1978, they undertake a wide range of community projects. Some are more visible than others, such as the recent Town Square playground renovations that made it fully inclusive, allowing wheelchair access; and the annual summer cleanups at the Nature Center and along the Glenn Highway.
But some of the club’s activities are less obvious, such as providing meals to the Fisher House, where families stay when medical care is needed in Anchorage; hosting foreign exchange students and sending others abroad; or supporting local school programs, such as the Most Improved Student and the Choices Workshop.
Taught by Rotarians, the Choices Workshop is a two-day, interactive program for 8th grade students. The workshop is designed to convince them of the benefits of remaining in school and offers some tools for success.
Each summer at Eagle River’s Bear Paw Festival, the Rotary’s Ididaduck Race, its annual fundraiser, is one of the more popular events. It also participates in the annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in the Town Square.
“We have a very active Rotary membership here in Eagle River,” says Tonya Gamble, a past club president. “We’re very goal oriented, and that is reflected in the projects we undertake.”
While focused on the local community, the club has a long reach. Two years ago several members traveled to Mexico for a literacy project. They worked with a non-profit organization there called Project Amigo, whose goal is to keep impoverished children in school. Rotary purchased and delivered 14 mini-libraries to various schools in Colima, one of Mexico’s poorest states. It was a $14,000 project and the Rotary Foundation assisted with funding.
Through Project Amigo, several Rotarians sponsor student scholars, from elementary to college age. The sponsorships provide necessary supplies, school uniforms, books and meals necessary to allow these children to attend school.
And following a long tradition, Rotary actively supports the global quest to eradicate polio.
Historic roots: The Eagle River Rotarians are part of long tradition in the U.S. dating back to 1905, when Chicago attorney Paul P. Harris founded the organization. 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. The organization adopted the Rotary International name a year later.
As Rotary grew, its mission expanded. 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. Rotary eventually evolved to advance international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.
The Eagle River Club meets every Thursday from 12 noon to 1 p.m. at Piccolino’s Restaurant, 12801 Old Glenn Highway. The Satellite Club, organized for people who work in Anchorage and are unable to get back for the luncheon meeting, also meets every Thursday, but has breakfast from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. at the Bear Mountain Grill, 12300 Old Glenn Highway.
The current club president is Debbie Rinckey. “Our membership has grown over the last couple of years,” she says. “It seemed like the playground project helped increase interest and bring people in. We currently have 43 members, but are always looking for service-minded people who want to get involved.”
To access the club’s website, go to: http://clubrunner.ca/Portal/Home.aspx?cid=2454
The club also maintains a Facebook page at “Eagle River Area Rotary”.
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer and columnist who lives in Eagle River. To contact Frank, email [email protected].