joining rotary

My Reasons for Joining Rotary


Rotary International was founded on February 23, 1905, in Chicago by attorney Paul Harris. His idea was that “professionals from diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas, form meaningful, lifelong friendships, and give back to their communities.” The name “Rotary” comes from rotating meetings at the offices of the members. Currently, Rotary International has 1.2 million members in clubs all over the world. This week marked my four-year anniversary of joining Rotary and in particular the Norwich Rotary Club.

So, to mark the date, I thought I’d put down some of my reasons for joining Rotary. I’m writing this in hopes that you’ll consider joining your local club or at least support them in some way. If nothing else, I hope this gives you a better idea of what Rotary clubs are, and what they do.


Ideals that Mean Something

Rotary’s motto, “Service above Self” is at the same time simple and profound. As someone who grew up in the Boy Scouts, it resonated with me.

It’s amazing the reward that you can get from the act of helping others. When a lot of people put aside their own daily concerns for a little while and put their minds to making the lives of others better, the world can change. There’s something profound about doing things, not for reward, or recognition, but because it’s the right thing to do.

I think for most people, “The Four-Way Test” is self-evident. But a weekly reminder of these things can help keep us on the right path.

The Four-Way Test leads us to a path of success in all of our relationships. If people see you as being trustworthy, and concerned about their well-being, and fairness in your interactions with them, they’ll be far more likely to want to interact with you in the future. Sometimes we get the idea that some people succeed only at the expense of someone else. But the truth is, really successful and happy people get their success when they think of what other people want, and work to help other people succeed.

Of course, words without action don’t mean a whole lot. And Rotary helps us put those words into action.

Joining Rotary Helps You Make a Difference in the World

It’s easy to complain, and it’s easy to spend all day long decrying the problems of the world. But do you want your contribution to the world to be just a series of complaints? Or do you actually want to make a difference in the world, and do concrete things that help people?

If so, then joining Rotary might make sense for you.

Rotary International has been one of the driving forces in the struggle to eliminate Polio. They’ve helped to immunize 2.5 billion – with a B – children against this crippling disease in 122 countries.

Last year, when Hurricane Matthew ravaged the people of Haiti, my Norwich Rotary Club was able to quickly direct funds to the Haitian Health Foundation, to help provide direct aid to people in need. We were also one of many local organizations that helped to prepare pre-packaged meals. We made meals that were directed to Haiti.

This year our club has worked to provide coats to over a thousand children in the Norwich area. We’ve also raised money to help kids go to Scout camp, support adults with disabilities, support local arts, and help families in need, among many other projects. And my club is by no means alone in doing good works like these.

For example, the Rotary E-Club of the Caribbean 7020 has put together The Butterfly Storybook. It’s a collection of stories written by children – which is great in and of itself – but the 100% of the book’s royalties will go to help the club provide humanitarian service. It gives young authors a chance to be published, while at the same time sharing their stories around the world – and raising money to help their communities. Truly a win-win-win.

Make Meaningful Connections

There’s something to be said for getting together with people once a week. You get to know them over time. There are a lot of great organizations out there, but there’s something about having lunch with people once a week that really helps build lasting connections. In these days when life seems busier than ever, that means a lot. You get to know people, and they get to know you. You get to share in life’s victories and have an outlet at the tragedies. My club has delighted over the years at the stories of my kids growing up – and they were there for me when my dad passed away.

You get to know people who you otherwise would probably never cross paths with, and who you share very little in common with, except for a common desire to make the community you live in a better place.

It’s also an amazing experience to get to visit other clubs, and instantly feel welcome. It’s also interesting to note the differences, and how each club operates with their own quirks. They have their own personalities. If you’re looking to find out about the character of a community, visit a meeting of their Rotary Club.

Learn About Your Community

One of the other perks of Rotary meetings are the speakers. Each week we get speakers from various community organizations to come to our meetings and tell us about the great work that they’re doing. It’s one thing to read about them in the newspaper or see an article about them on Facebook – but it’s entirely another to meet them in person, and be listen to them tell their stories, and be able to ask them questions.

Rotary Club members tend to be the “movers and shakers” in that community. So if you’re moving to a new community, a Rotary club is a great place to connect with people in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s a great way to get the lay of the land in a hurry.

A few months ago, a woman from a new nonprofit in town came to speak at our club. We were all impressed by her dedication. After the meeting, six Rotarians stayed around to talk to her about how she could expand her organization and help her connections to businesses and resources.


It’s Fun

I have to confess that I’ve saved the best for last. I look forward to my weekly Rotary meeting like I look forward to very few things each week. When I go through that door, I know that I’m going to laugh with some really good people. There will be jokes. Maybe a good-natured ribbing from time to time.

Last week, at the Coat Drive, we managed to package hundreds of coats for distribution and were having a blast doing it. Coats were flying around the room, being labeled, and being boxed, and all the while, the sound you heard was laughter. (And that sound of packing tape, but mostly laughter.)

There’s just nothing like the feeling you get from doing good works with good people.

How To Join

This is just an informal thought, but most people have thought about joining Rotary for years before actually joining. I’ll say that I had trepidation about reaching out to a club. Looking back on it now, I know that this fear was misplaced. They could not have been more welcoming.

You can use the Club Finder to locate the clubs in your area. Find a club that’s convenient for your geography and your schedule. Then send them an email, or reach out through Facebook. You can also fill out the online form (like I did), and someone will be in touch with you. Trust me, they’ll be happy to hear from you.

Then attend a meeting, and see if it’s a good fit for you and the club. Membership is not guaranteed, and each club makes decisions as to its members. There are costs and commitments involved in joining Rotary. But if you’re looking to make a difference in your community – and have a blast doing it, I think you’ll find these are well worth it.


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