I had no intention of ever joining a Rotary Club. Certainly, I had heard of “Rotary” in my years living and working as a newspaper editor in Medford Township, but – truth be told – I thought of Rotary as a group of business people networking. Mostly men, I assumed.
In late 2015, when I started a new job as the Marketing Director at YMCA Camp Ockanickon in Medford, I was approached by Jim Robinson, a local realtor I’d known for years, who was president of the Medford Sunrise Rotary. “Come out and join us for one of our Wednesday breakfast meetings,” he insisted. “We’d love for you to be part of our club.”
“You meet once a month for breakfast?” I asked him. “No, we meet weekly,” he responded. I decided then and there that while I would certainly visit one day, I would never, ever join. After all, who would commit to getting up EVERY Wednesday morning for a 7:15 breakfast meeting – to be part of a group that sounded like something my grandfather would have been involved in? No thanks!
So, I dragged myself out of bed one morning and attended a Rotary breakfast meeting at the Pop Shop in Medford. The members – about a dozen or so men and a couple of women - were kind and welcoming to me, and they had an interesting speaker that day. It was pleasant enough, but I vowed it would be my first and final visit.
Jim Robinson, who happens to be a very charming person, persisted in pursuing me. “Everyone likes you, you have to join our club,” he stated in a phone call later that week. He also pointed out that my boss, the CEO of the nonprofit organization, was slated to be the next speaker at the Rotary breakfast. Of course, I would have to attend another early-morning meeting – just to be supportive of my own camp! I woke up before dawn again, dragged myself out of bed and attended. My CEO did a terrific job as speaker – and later he mentioned that it might be a good idea for me to get involved with a community group like Rotary. In fact, he told me, camp would sponsor me and pay my dues. Alas, I was stuck; a Rotarian I would be. Shortly thereafter, I was sworn in as a full-fledged member. It actually felt kind of nice to be accepted by such a great group of people. I learned the Four-Way Test, which is recited at each meeting: “Of all the things we think, say or do … Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Soon, I learned what Rotary really is – a worldwide organization with more than a million members who volunteer locally in an effort to make their communities, and the world, a better place.
It’s been a little more than two years since I joined the Medford Sunrise Rotary Club, and I have to say that I haven’t regretted a single minute of it. Somehow along the way, they talked me into being the public image chair and then they voted me in as vice president. I’m slated to be president-elect later this year - which means I’ll be president in 2019. So much for not wanting to get involved!
As a Rotarian, I’ve worn an orange vest and cleaned up streets in my hometown. I’ve planted trees in an open field near the high school. I’ve stood in the middle of major intersections and collected coins for good causes. I’ve helped plan and organize the Medford Dickens Festival. I’ve trekked to Camden to prepare meals for families at Ronald McDonald House. I’ve donned plastic gloves and a hairnet and helped pack nutritious meals for people in Third World countries. I’ve worked with Operation Yellow Ribbon to collect toiletries and treats for the troops. I’ve helped send young people to leadership training and children from impoverished areas to camp. I’m part of a larger organization – Rotary International - that is committed to eradicating polio and other diseases, providing lifesaving and sustaining support to children in need of heart surgery, providing clean water and sanitation, promoting peace and conflict resolution, supporting maternal and child health and providing economic and community development. Pretty awesome endeavors, when you think about it.
Along the way, I’ve met wonderful people and forged lifelong friendships through my Rotary connections. I’ve been inspired by the weekly speakers who are kind enough to accept our invitation to visit and share their stories with our club members.
And these days, I look forward to my early Wednesday mornings, sharing breakfast, camaraderie and love with a group of people who believe in service above self. I feel so very fortunate. So if you’re looking for a worthwhile organization to lend your time and talent to – reach out to us at MedfordSunriseRotary@gmail.com or stop in at the Pop Shop at 7:15 some Wednesdaymorning. Or check in at another Rotary club near you. You’ll be glad you did!