Rotary clubs in South Mississippi and Southeast Louisiana are starting 2017 by celebrating the 100th anniversary of Rotary Foundation and serving their communities.
The 49 clubs and 2,100 members in District 6840 are already working on their 100 Days of Service Projects and will continue through April feeding the hungry and caring for children, the elderly, the ill and the environment.
“Do whatever you want during this time,” Rotary District Governor Randall Feldman told the members, and they came up with some creative ways to help. At the end of the 100 days, Feldman said he will tally the hours spent, the number of volunteers who participated and the people served to show the impact of the campaign.
Rotary members in South Mississippi are undertaking a variety of projects:
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▪ Ocean Springs — Members will volunteers with as many local charities and volunteer organizations as possible during the 100 days. They also will also cook breakfast at the Ronald McDonald House in Mobile in conjunction with the club’s annual Pancake Day fundraiser. Feldman said the Ocean Springs Rotary is striving for 100 percent participation and also started a photo contest with “Selfies of Service” and “Random Acts of Service” pictures posted daily on the group’s Facebook page to promote the service in the community.
▪ Pascagoula — Rotary is partnering with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources to replace markers identifying navigable waterways off the Pascagoula River. “They’re all washed away during Hurricane Katrina,” Feldman said. They are used to guide boaters and kayakers as they explore the Pascagoula River. The initial focus will be the lower Pascagoula River
▪ Pass Christian — will partner with the Mississippi Land Trust to build and maintain a nature trail that helps students learn about environmental science, nature and local history.
▪ Picayune — will serve lunch at senior centers and convalescent homes. The club also plans a special needs fishing rodeo for a day of fishing and barbecue.
▪ Lucedale — Rotary will distribute dictionaries to all third grade students in the county with a Rotary Foundation 100th anniversary label in them. Members also will read to local Head Start students and assist Habitat for Humanity with building a home in George County.
Feldman said other clubs in South Mississippi are finalizing plans, and all intend to participate. Clubs in Louisiana are helping people recover from the August floods and collecting food and awareness for the hungry on a bicycle ride along the Mississippi River.
Rotary International is the largest and oldest service organization in the world with 1.2 million members worldwide. The group is knows for members attending a meeting each week, but the focus goes beyond their local clubs and communities.
Feldman said Rotary has taken on the challenge of working to eradicate polio worldwide. When the group started in 1985, there were 350,000 cases of polio a year, he said. In partnership with UNICEF, the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation, “This past year there were 35 cases in the world,” he said. “This may be the last year there is a case on Earth.”
Last year’s Rotary president was from Sri Lanka and was able to negotiate a temporary truce. “They stopped the war,” Feldman said, so the organizations could go in and immunize.
“And that’s what Rotary does. On its best days it changes lives,” he said.