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As a teenager in the 60s, I was dimly aware that my dad was a member of something called Rotary.
Initially, the name made me think he had something to do with roasting chickens in the supermarket. But the more I heard my dad talk about Rotary, I understood it might be a club where businessmen got together at lunchtime and drank martinis.
At one point my dad was made president of his Rotary club, but I never recalled him participating in service projects during evenings or weekends. The club sounded boring, and I thought it was something I’d never join.
That was my view for about 40 years, until my boss at the police department “suggested” that his leadership team join local service clubs. I ended up a member of The Rotary Club of Clover Park, one of two Rotary organizations serving Lakewood and surrounding communities.
Right from the start, I realized this was not my father’s Rotary. The membership is diverse, including retired military leaders, florists, restaurant owners, public servants, insurance brokers, educators, lawyers, realtors and medical professionals. About half the members are women.
While we do meet for lunch each week, there are no martinis (or any kind of alcoholic beverages) in sight. Instead, the focus is how best to serve our community, both locally and globally.
I quickly learned of Rotary International’s initiatives to eradicate polio worldwide, and how they help bring clean water to Third World countries and provide shelter to families displaced by natural disaster. In our Lakewood community, Clover Park Rotarians have devoted many hours in the schools to boost literacy, donate dictionaries and other books, fund scholarships and spend weekends doing maintenance and repair on school facilities.
When government budgets are lean, we’ve helped build playgrounds, picnic shelters and low-income housing. Rotarians are generous to a fault, willing to open wallets and checkbooks faster than a devoted Home Shopping Network viewer. Not only do we do good stuff, but we have great fun and fellowship doing it. No martinis needed.
At the heart of Rotary’s ethos is the “Four Way Test” and it’s pretty simple: Of the things we think, say or do, we always ask: “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”
Because of this shared belief, Rotarians can get things done when other organizations run into roadblocks. We trust each other to do the right thing, and that trust is rarely misplaced. I’ve never met a sleazy Rotarian. They may exist, but they’re about as common as unicorns.
In an era when honesty can seem in short supply, Rotary’s culture is downright refreshing. I briefly left after changing careers 12 years ago, but it held a place in my heart.
After retiring from full-time work in 2015, I became a volunteer for ShelterBox, an international humanitarian relief organization. ShelterBox started in England as a Rotary club’s service project, and it’s an official project partner with Rotary International. On most relief deployments , the ShelterBox Response Team relies heavily on local Rotary clubs.
This led me to ask my old club to take me back, and I’m thankful they did. So now I’m privileged to serve again as a Rotarian, as well as a ShelterBox Ambassador.
While I’m correctly tagged as a “full-time golf enthusiast,” I’m just as passionate about contributing my time and mixed bag of skills to Rotary and ShelterBox. We Rotarians are serious about following our official motto, “Service Above Self.” (Fortunately, most of us don’t take ourselves that seriously.)
If becoming a Rotarian sounds intriguing to you, let me know. I’d love to help you join us.
Dave Hall of Steilacoom is a former soldier, retired cop and full-time golf enthusiast. He’s one of six News Tribune reader columnists in 2019. Email him at email@example.com