CHESTERVILLE – A lot can happen in 80 years and all the evidence you need was neatly displayed on the walls of the Royal Canadian Legion Chesterville Branch Sat., May 12 as the village’s Rotary Club celebrated a rich history of community service.
The evening was filled with laughs, fine food, a few awards and an overwhelming sense of pride in the community.
Betty Vanden Bosch, club secretary, orchestrated the event with her usual charm and army of volunteers to put on an event that captured the essence of the work this vital organization does within in the village and the neighbouring towns. North Dundas council members were all in attendance and Mayor Eric Duncan praised the work of the tireless organization and its members.
“Eighty years is impressive, but what I think is more impressive is the amount that’s been done in that 80 years. If we need a project done, if it’s recreation, if it’s fundraising, if it’s a beautification project, we turn to our service clubs and Chesterville Rotary has always stood out,” he said.
While Vanden Bosch appreciated the praise, she quickly gave credit back to the people that keep the Rotary going.
“It’s amazing for a club to last that long and to be able to raise the funds that we’ve raised. It’s the people in the community that keep us going. Within a month and-a-half we sold tickets for a duck race, a Dutch charity dance and the 80th anniversary. And I would say most of the people were from this immediate area and it’s amazing for a club to get that kind of response from people,” she said.
However, Rotarian Beate Stewart insisted that Vanden Bosch take some of the credit and that people continue to donate because the money stays local.
“Betty always has great ideas. She has an idea and puts it out and within a short period of time she has the funds. People know that when they support us, it stays here,” she said.
Started in 1938 with 22 members, the main objective of Rotary is service – in the community, in the workplace, and throughout the world. Many of the projects that are tackled by this engaging group of volunteers address critical issues, such as children at risk, poverty and hunger, the environment, illiteracy and violence, but stepping into the spotlight to take credit isn’t part of their credo.
“There is the fundraising side. If there’s a family in need or a project that needs money raised, Rotary is there. But there are a lot of other things behind the scenes. A perfect example is the roadside cleanup that happens every year. There’s a big stretch right along Chesterville that they do every year. Not really any attention is given to it and it’s not raising any money, but it’s making a difference,” said Duncan.
While speaking with Vanden Bosch, it’s clear that the reward for her, and members like her, aren’t in recognition from publications, awards or even the public. It’s from the people that they help.
Case in point is 16-year-old Jordan Cotton, who is wheelchair-dependant. His mother was concerned about his ability to get in and out of the house, especially in case of an emergency. Enter Vanden Bosch and her crew and within weeks they had raised the funds necessary and installed an electric door opener for the teen.
“He can tour around town, come back, push the button and go in. He said, ‘I’m free as bird.’ That’s what really hit me. So for $1,700 his whole life could change,” said Vanden Bosch.
During this special evening, the club awarded three Paul Harris Fellowships to outstanding citizens from the community – Ron Leclair, Gordon Moat and Frank Heerkens. Each one of them was honoured for their countless contributions to various Rotary projects and Heerkens also took the opportunity to announce that he would personally match donations this year up to $8,000.
While the Rotary is always looking for new members, the process is by invite. Part of the reason is to ensure that people understand the level of commitment required.
“Today there’s two members of the family working. They get home at night, there are children, there’s stuff to do in the house and they just don’t have the time. While their children are growing up, that’s where their attention should be. That’s why we’re a bit of an older group. Our kids are grown up,” said Vanden Bosch.
There is the option for individuals or businesses to get involved on a more casual basis as a “friend of the Rotary”. Many of the projects they undertake require skills, manpower or expertise that the members themselves may not have.
Working with other organizations is also something that the club has taken great pride in, as noted by Duncan.
“It’s never a competition thing. It’s higher water raising all ships. It’s a wonderful group to work with and it’s a great experience. Some are newer members, some have been around for decades in terms of their experience. So for those looking to give back, make a small difference and have a little bit of time, this is something where their work goes into a group and everybody working together can achieve a lot more,” he said.
The celebratory evening wrapped up with author Mary Cook’s presentation “The Joy of Memories.”
A more appropriate finale could not have been scheduled as the Rotary Club of Chesterville and District forges ahead into its next 80 years ensuring that “service above self” is more than just a motto, it is the embodiment of a community.