In honor of National Volunteer Week this week, I wanted to talk about Rotary International and why I am a Rotarian. There tends to be this misconception with millenials that service clubs are for old people. Unfortunately, those same people think that we, millenials, don’t have civic pride and don’t care about volunteer work. A year ago, I would have laughed in someone’s face if they told me I would be a Rotarian. “Why on earth would I join Rotary Club. I have enough on my plate as it is with work and trying to acclimate to a new place. Plus isn’t Rotary Club just where old people sit around and pat themselves on the back for being old and rich?” That was an actual conversation I had with a friend of mine. She convinced me that Rotary Club is not like that at all, Rotary is about volunteering, leadership, and building relationships. I went to a meeting, and I fell in love. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m the youngest member of my club by about 15 years. Most of the Rotarians in my club have children or grand children around my age. They are established in their lives and careers. It can be intimidating, but it can also teach you a lot.
Before every meeting we recite the Four Way Test. It is how we should live our lives as Rotarians. We should speak the truth, and build beneficial, relationships with those around us. We strive to do good in our community, through various activities. My Club promotes healthy living by sponsoring 5Ks throughout the year. We help serve food that we donate to the athletes and spectators at the Special Olympics in our area. On Election days, we have a pancake breakfast or a spaghetti dinner. We have a booth set up at the fall festival every year so that we are interacting with the community. We have a speaker from various companies, non profit organizations and community events every week. We learn about new programs, and how we can help make them successful. When a flood hit our county last year and we were left with the destruction of a community, we helped rebuild, we donated whatever we could, from water to clothes to a shoulder to lean on.
This year’s theme for Rotary International is “Be a gift to the world.” I think this theme is something that the older generations of Rotarians need to use to attract the younger generation. I spend many meetings trying to help bridge the gap. I try to explain my club that millenials are not all selfish, that we aren’t only interested in instant gratification and social media. Rotary Clubs across the country need to work on being open, accessible and welcoming to a younger generation of volunteers. Millenials take pride in their community and more than ever are interested in having careers that make an impact on the world. Those two things are at the heart of Rotary Club, so why is it that we have these preconceived misconceptions creating a barrier to recruitment and inclusion. I want to try to change that. The world has changed and we can all learn so much from one another. Millenials can help the older generation utilize social media, connect with their children and grandchildren and provide insight into why we act the way we do. The older generation can teach millenials about the community and history surrounding them. More importantly they can give career and personal advice, because guess what? Chances are they have been through it. In the end, the two generations can help each other build good will as well as new, better, stronger relationships. A diverse group can serve their community better. The more diverse the club the more widespread our knowledge of the services required by the community are.
So I am putting my membership to this fantastic organization out there. If you have questions about the club, about what I do, about why I think it is so special, ask away!