Rotary offers service near and far Featured

(This is the second in a series of stories on community service clubs.)
There are several community service clubs in Bolivar County but few have reached as many milestones as Cleveland Rotary Club.
According to member Keith Fulcher, "It's one of the largest numerical services organizations in the world by numbers. We're in just about every country in the world. It’s a worldwide service organization."
According to the club history, it has over 35,000 clubs worldwide, to promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, save mothers and children, support education, and grow local economies.
Chicago attorney Paul Harris formed the Rotary Club of Chicago on February 23 1905, so professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas, form meaningful, lifelong friendships, and give back to their communities.
Fulcher said, "I got in it about 1995. When I got in the primary focus was eradicating polio. All clubs worldwide were focusing on money to eradicate polio and that’s been just about accomplished in all the free world countries. Recently there was another round of funding."
Cleveland Mayor Billy Nowell was very active in this cause in the ’80s and provided information about PolioPlus.
A five year polio immunization project in the Phillipines was launced by Rotary International in 1979 through it's Health, Hunger, and Humanity Program.
The goal was originally to protect some six million children against the disease and later the World Health Organization would report that the number of polio cases in the Philippines dropped nearly 60 percent between 1980 and 1982.
After the clubs 75th anniversary convention, volunteers were challenged to conquer polio worldwide.
In 1985 Rotary International created PolioPlus, a program to immunize all the world's children against polio by 2005, which was Rotary's Centennial.
Rotary members have played a key role in bringing the world to the brink of polio eradication.
Their efforts have not only ended polio in 122 countries but also created a system for tackling myriad other health priorities, such as Ebola.
Fulcher said, "One of the newest humanitarian efforts is clean water. Bill Boyken from Greenville did a program for Rotary. They were paying for water wells in African countries. He'd show these mud holes where animals drank and people had these pots. They'd put in these water wells, a pipe going down in the ground with a hand pump and pumped clean fresh water out of the ground."
Rotary has worked with partners to provide more than 80 percent of Ghana’s people with clean water to fight Guinea worm disease.
Locally, the Rotary Club donates dictionaries to every fourth-grader in Bolivar County.
"Most of them don’t have their own dictionary," said Fulcher.
The club also tagged draining systems on the streets in Bolivar County to show it was clean water only and not to pour anything into the water.
"We've done environmental day numerous times. We also do Dr. Seuss's birthday and read to children in local schools. We sponsor Interact Club at Cleveland Central as well, which is like the high school version of Rotary," said Fulcher.
The club also sponsors students from all high schools to go to a youth leadership conference once a year and has hosted international exchange visitors.
For decades the club was male only and now Rotary is celebrating 20 years of female membership.
When Fulcher was a new member of Rotary in Cleveland it was all male.
"Now females dominate the club and leadership positions," he said.
"I was president when we broke the race barrier, I'm very proud of that. Gwen Thomas was proposed and approved as a member. There was no push back," he said.
According to its website, "becoming a Rotary member connects you with a diverse group of professionals who share your drive to give back."
Through regular meetings and events, members discuss your community’s needs and develop creative ways to meet them; connect with other leaders who are changing the world; expand your leadership and professional skills; catch up with good friends and meet new ones.
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