By Caleb Vierkant
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
This is the Rotary Four-Way Test – the questions Rotarians ask themselves before doing anything. These principles are meant to provide a strong foundation for healthy professional and personal relationships, and they are recited at Rotary Club meetings across the world.
“Rotary is an international organization,” says Bryan Rotary Club member Rusleen Maurice. “It’s the oldest service organization in the world, whose members are business and professional men and women.”
Chicago lawyer Paul Harris founded the first Rotary Club in 1905, according to the Rotary International website. Harris formed the club as a way for local professionals with diverse backgrounds to meet, exchange ideas, and build friendships. The name “rotary” came from how the club would rotate their meeting places among the offices of its members.
From these humble beginnings, the organization exploded. Today Rotary International hosts 1.2 million members. More than 33,000 clubs are spread across the globe, from India to Bryan/College Station. Rotary International’s goal of humanitarian aid, and even their motto of “Service Above Self,” is a natural fit in Aggieland, where camaraderie and a spirit of service are highly valued. This could explain why there are three separate clubs in the area.
The Bryan Rotary Club, the College Station Rotary Club, and the Aggieland Rotary Club are all within Rotary District 5910, which spans southeastern Texas and hosts 40 separate clubs. These three clubs in the B/CS area all work towards aiding and bettering their communities, as well as the world, in their own ways.
Bryan Rotary Club
The Bryan Rotary Club is the largest of the three clubs in the area with 117 members. It is also the oldest. Chartered in 1921, it is listed as club No. 2021. It has also been titled a “100% Paul Harris Club.” This award is given to clubs whose dues-paying members have each donated a minimum of $1,000 to an approved Rotary Foundation grant. The Bryan Rotary Club does work both locally and internationally.
In 2015-2016, the club has had an impressive list of works. They annually honor the top 10 fastest-growing small businesses in Brazos County with the Bryan Rotary 10 Business Performance Awards. This year they also provided funding and volunteers to help build a Habitat for Humanity house. This has also been the fifth year in a row they’ve established the Field of Valor at Veteran’s Park, a field of 1,000 American flags honoring veterans and first responders. People can pay $50 to sponsor a flag, and a placard will be attached to a flag to honor a specific individual who has served their community and country. The flags are set up and maintained during Veterans Week in November.
“We also have a local grants committee that meets in January [and] February to review competitive grant proposals from local 501c3 groups that request support,” says Bryan Rotary Club board member Cody Jones. “We are budgeted to give away an additional $10,000 for that.”
A 501c3 is an organization that has officially been recognized as a charity, humanitarian aid, or religious organization that is exempt from federal income tax. Donations to a nonprofit listed as a 501c3 are also tax-deductible.
The Bryan Rotary Club has also been hard at work internationally. They’ve donated to the END POLIO NOW project through the Rotary International Foundation. They have given $2,500 to the Children of the Dump project in Nicaragua and $5,000 for mosquito nets in a joint project with two Rotary Clubs based in India. They have also participated in the Rotary International Exchange Program, allowing non-Rotarians to travel abroad and learn about different cultures and people.
More information about the Bryan Rotary Club and more of their projects can be found on their website at www.bryan-rotary.org. They can also be found on Facebook at “Bryan Rotary Club.” They host weekly meetings on Wednesdays at noon at the Phillips Event Center.
College Station Rotary Club
The Rotary Club of College Station is club No. 2022. Twenty-three members from the Bryan Rotary Club founded and chartered the “Bryan-College Station Rotary Club” in 1982. The name was changed to the “Rotary Club of College Station” during Rotary year 1987-88. They are also a “100% Paul Harris Club.” They are involved in a number of humanitarian projects around the B/CS area.
This Rotary Club loves to recognize people who would otherwise not be recognized. One way they do this is through the Florence Nightingale Award. The goal of this award is to recognize and honor those who work hard and show the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self” in the nursing home industry. They also have a Very Important Vocational Achievement award. This award is given to locals who show outstanding service and exemplify the ideals of the Rotary Four-Way Test.
When not awarding selfless service, the College Station Rotary Club actively supports many programs geared towards those most in need of selfless service: children.
“We’re more youth concentrated than some of the other clubs,” says current President Doug Bramwell.
One such youth-oriented program is the College Station Interact Club. Interact is for kids ages 12 to 18. Interact clubs give kids fun, meaningful service projects to participate in, the chance to make new friends, and the ability to develop leadership skills.
Another program aimed towards children is the Clothing for Kids project, which Bramwell says happens around Christmas time, the first Saturday in December.
“We have families nominated by various public service agencies around town, or churches sometimes,” says Bob Brick, last year’s president of the College Station Rotary Club. “Once they’re selected we give them $125, either cash or a gift card. Then we meet them at the College Station Target at seven in the morning; Target opens early for us. We typically have 50 to 70 kids. The Rotarians go with the family they’re hosting, and they go through Target buying clothes.”
After they are done shopping, the group then goes down to the nearby Outback Steakhouse for a pancake breakfast, says Bramwell.
This club has weekly breakfast meetings from 6:45 a.m. to 8 a.m. at the College Station Hilton on Thursdays. More information about this club can be found at www.csrotaryclub.org. They can also be found on Facebook at “Rotary Club of College Station.”
Aggieland Rotary Club
The Aggieland Rotary Club is the youngest of the three clubs. It was chartered in 1995 as the “Rotary Club of Brazos Valley” with sponsorship from both clubs in Bryan and College Station. The club changed its name to “The Rotary Club of Aggieland” in 2003. Their club number is No. 31063.
The Aggieland Rotary Club hosts several events, the largest being the yearly Thanksgiving Basket Project. The Saturday before Thanksgiving, club members meet and put together baskets of frozen turkey, stuffing mix, canned vegetables, dinner rolls, and other foodstuffs. They then deliver these baskets to families in need to give them a full, free Thanksgiving meal.
“We will be giving out Thanksgiving Baskets again this year on November 19,” says Aggieland Rotarian Jarrod Hix. “We are always looking for volunteer drivers to deliver baskets. There are people in tremendous need in the community and sometimes something like a basket can really lift their spirits. We pretty much survive off non-Rotarians to help us deliver.”
The club also likes to recognize other people’s hard work to provide aid. They do this through the Edgar Morris Spirit Award. This award recognizes non-Rotarians who have made significant humanitarian contributions to the B/CS area. With this award, a gift of $500 is given to the charity of the recipient’s choice.
“Edgar Morris was a longtime Rotarian and very dedicated,” says Hix. “He passed away in 1998. The club had been giving away an award just called ‘the spirit award.’ After he passed we changed the name. Every year we recognize someone who has the Rotarian spirit of giving and service above self.”
Two years ago, thanks to a Rotary International grant, the club was able to build a $20,000 water well for an orphanage in El Salvador run by the Shelter the Homeless International Project. This well gives the orphanage a much-needed source of clean water.
The Aggieland Rotary Club meets on Thursdays at the Traditions Country Club at 11:50 a.m. Their website is www.aggielandrotary.org. They can be found on Facebook at “Rotary Club of Aggieland.”
All three Rotary Clubs have come together to work on a shared project. The Rotarians, as well as several other service organizations, have been pooling their resources to build a Fun For All playground in College Station. This playground is for children and adults of all kinds, but is especially designed to be accessible for those with disabilities. According to Brick, construction on this $3 million project will begin this fall.
While Rotary International is a friendly organization, and non-Rotarian volunteers are always welcome, membership is invitation-only. Someone who is already a member in good standing with the club must vouch for you before you can be allowed to join. However, a Prospective Member Form can be submitted to local clubs via the Rotary International website. Visiting Rotarians from other clubs are always welcome to attend meetings and participate in events.
The website for the entire organization can be found at rotary.org. It can also be found on Facebook at “Rotary International.” The website for the district is www.rotary5910.org.