BRATTLEBORO >> Rotary International, along with its various clubs throughout the world, has established January as Rotary Awareness Month.
"A lot of people don't know what Rotary International does. We want to get the word out," said Greg Worden, Brattleboro Rotary Club president.
One of the biggest focuses of the organization is working to eliminate polio. The club has worked closely with World Health Organization and the Gates Foundation in this effort.
"We pretty much have polio eliminated except for two or three countries," Worden said.
Rotary International and the Gates Foundation have provided close to $600 million to combat polio worldwide. This includes the approximate $10,000 contributed by the Brattleboro Rotary Club and the Sunrise Rotary Club over the last five years.
Still, polio isn't the only focus of Rotary International.
The International organization has also focused on literacy and clean water. Club members have gone to various areas of the world to help map out well locations and to help provide water filters.
In fact, the roots of Pure Water for the World began in Brattleboro itself in 1994 when Peter Abell, a member of the Brattleboro Rotary Club, volunteered to go to a small Salvadoran village to provide medical services. Abell was moved by the poor living conditions and vowed to make a difference and do something. With the support of the Brattleboro Rotary Club, Abell decided to help the people by providing rural villages with potable water. The success and interest of the club's activities soon outgrew the capacity of the Rotary Club. As a result, Pure Water for the World, Inc. was set up as a 501(c)(3) organization to carry out this important humanitarian effort.
Pure Water for the World works in remote regions of developing countries that lack sustainable clean, safe drinking water. PWW works with local governments and community partners to select, analyze the appropriate technology for the community, and to implement cost effective projects.
For the past four years, the Brattleboro Rotary Club has been raising awareness and funds for KILI Radio, a radio station committed to improve the lives of residents of Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Additionally, the club collects old and broken laptops and refurbishes them for students on the reservation. So far, over 250 laptops have been collected with 150 of them being sent for student use.
The Brattleboro Rotary Club uses funds raised from its annual Christmas tree sales and other efforts primarily for area high school scholarships. Over $500,000 in scholarships has been awarded over the past 25 years. This year the club will be offering $18,000 to graduating seniors from area high schools, as well as a $2500 scholarship to a Community College of Vermont student completing a degree in medial assisting. The CCV scholarship is in memory of Jesse Corum, a longtime member.
In addition, the club supports a number of projects in the community, both large and small with cash and in-kind work. The club also raises funds by way of its annual Golf Tournament held the first Thursday in June. This year, net proceeds will benefit the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital new emergency department. At the local level, members help charitable ventures when they arise.
"We help pretty much any non profit organization that needs it," Worden said.
The Brattleboro Rotary Club has 80 members and the Sunrise Rotary Club has over 45 members. Rotarian members throughout the world follow the same four-way test. The questions addressed by the test include: Is it the truth, fair to all concerned, will it build goodwill and better friendships, and will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Worden said people have to be invited into the club, and someone must vouch for them.
The Brattleboro Rotary Club, founded in 1950, has weekly meetings on Thursdays at 12:15 p.m. The Sunrise Rotary Club, founded in 1995, has weekly meetings on Wednesdays at 7:15 a.m. Both clubs meet at The American Legion Post 5 (32 Linden Street, Brattleboro).
If you are interested in learning more about Rotary or attending a meeting, visit the Sunrise Rotary Club Web site at http://www.brattleborosunriserotary.org or the Brattleboro Rotary Club Web site at www.brattlebororotaryclub.org.