Claire Anderson, contributing writer

 

 

If anyone truly knows what “Service Above Self” means, it’s those involved with Rotary International. According to Steve Skinner, a Cache Valley Rotarian of 35 years and former Rotary District Governor, this simple yet profound phrase “is the motto of over 1.4 million Rotarians in 46,000 clubs and 200 countries.”

The first Rotary Club was established in Chicago in February 1905. The club’s initial purpose was to encourage the exchanging of ideas and development of lifelong friendships among community members. Today, Rotary is one of the largest service organizations in the world, with a vision revolving around humanitarian service. Rotary first came to Utah in 1911. Today, there are 45 clubs in Utah, including Cache Valley Morning Rotary and Logan Rotary.

Rotary Art Gallery at Benson Marina

“We also sponsor Interact Clubs, which are Rotary Clubs at a high school level, and Utah State University sponsors a Rotaract Club,” Cheryl Alder, Cache Valley Rotarian, said.

Rotary’s main focuses include “ending polio, promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, supporting education, saving mothers and children, growing local economies, protecting the environment, and disaster response.” Rotary is most well-known for its worldwide efforts to eradicate polio.

“In 1988, a big reason why I joined Rotary was to help eradicate polio in the world,” Steve said. “That year, there were an estimated 350,000 cases of polio that occurred in 125 countries. In 2018, 33 cases of wild poliovirus were reported in only two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s a 99.9% reduction in global polio cases. Together, we are leading the fight to end polio through our fundraising efforts, awareness campaigns, and work as a partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.”

Cheryl Alder leads the Interact Club at Ridgeline High School and helps organize Interact’s polio eradication fundraising efforts. She recalls how she was first inspired to join Rotary by members who visited the students she taught in elementary school, to give each second grader a book about ethics as part of Rotary’s Literacy Program.

“For many years, Rotarians had been coming to the schools and teaching our second graders a little bit about Rotary. Each year as they came, I was interested in their service, especially their service in Cambodia. For many, many years, I had been interested in going on a humanitarian trip, so in June 2019 I went to my first meeting. I love being a part of something bigger than me!” she said.

One of Rotary’s biggest projects in Cache Valley is providing gifts for the Centro-de-la-familia community during Christmastime.

“The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays lend themselves to serving others and this is a delightful and rewarding project,” Cheryl said. “We aren’t there when the children get their presents, but we do get reports back about how grateful families are for our support.”

Rotarians in Cache Valley also work closely with the Cache Valley Food Pantry, participate in annual highway cleanup projects, sponsor an orphanage and latrine-building program in Cambodia, and have created outdoor wildlife art galleries in some beautiful locations across the valley, including Benson Marina and near the Little Bear River.

“It has been eye-opening to see Rotarians’ lives change when they give way to serving those around them. People are happier and more fulfilled in giving back and making a difference in our local and world community. That awareness changes you. The 35 years of my life as a Rotarian have given me the opportunity to see how doing good in a Rotary Club truly makes a difference. If you want to be of service in making the world a better place, come join us,” Steve said.

“I know it is difficult to leave work to come and meet and find ways to serve people around us, but the rewards and change in my own life have been so great. We are always looking for others who want to serve and make a difference right here in our own community,” Cheryl said. She is looking forward to participating in Rotary’s latrine and wash station construction project in Cambodia this month and acknowledges that there is also much to be done locally. “We have so much we can do here, in our wonderful Cache Valley! Come and join us — we need you!”

Rotary Club serving at the Cache Valley Food Pantry

Ridgeline High School Interact Club