The motto of Rotary Club International is “Serve Before Self”.
For more than 100 years, members of the Rotary Club of Columbus have lived by this motto by volunteering and raising funds in their community, in the state and around the world.
Some efforts have been local but have a huge impact, such as providing food to local warming centers or during tornado relief efforts and improving the leadership skills of Lowndes County youth.
Other efforts are large in scale with statewide or global impact, such as helping eradicate polio worldwide or donating money to Delta Medical Center, Greenville, or the University of Mississippi, to Jackson.
Founded on April 1, 1921, the organization planned to host a centennial gala last year but had to postpone at least twice due to the pandemic, President Carey Edwards said. The third time was the charm, as members and guests of the organization celebrated its 100th centennial gala on Friday at the Depot.
During the program, Rotarians learned about two of the organization’s programs, Bright from the Start and the Lowndes Young Leader program. They were also challenged to look to a productive future.
Brilliant from the start
To celebrate the organization’s 100th anniversary, the Rotary Club of Columbus approved a $40,000 grant to launch Bright from the Start. The partnership supports Lowndes County families with children from birth to age 5 and the University of Mississippi’s Early Childhood Development Program for Women.
Melinda Lowe, Director of Outreach and Innovation, Education Coordination at W’s School of Education, leads the program.
The program plans to focus on three major projects: a resource room, a CHEER conference and a Welcome Baby package program.
The Bright from the Start Resource Lending Library has age-appropriate toys and learning tools that can be loaned to people at W’s School of Education or preschool principals, Lowe said.
Since 92% of a person’s brain is developed by age 5, the tools also include things that help children build job skills and social and emotional learning so they can manage their feelings. .
The Celebrating and Honoring Respect for Early Education – CHEER – conference is an event tentatively scheduled for late March, early April, Lowe said.
“Preschool teachers don’t make a lot of money,” she says. “They work long hours and many live on the poverty line. … These people are just not liked.
“The conference will help show the community’s appreciation for these educators.
The conference will include training and giveaways, such as a free meal, gift cards, etc.
Welcome Baby kits will be given to families whose newborns were born in area hospitals. The packets will contain information about local resources and other things to support a newborn’s brain development.
Lowndes Young Leaders
Rachel Harris, a Columbus native and enrolled in the W Culinary Arts program, spoke about the impact of the Lowndes Young Leaders program. She also received the Bill Walker Leadership Award.
The 10-month program helps teens develop leadership skills and learn different life skills.
“I was such a nervous, shy kid, who knew she had potential but didn’t know how to use it,” she said.
Through the program, Harris found her purpose of becoming a professional chef and her love of baking.
“It’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me,” she said of the Young Leaders program. “It allowed me to make connections not only with other students in the region, but also with several adults. Each of them encouraged each of us to reach our greatest potential. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.
Challenge for the future
Floyd Lancia, 2019-2021 Rotary International Director of Zones 30-31, which includes Columbus, spoke about how Rotary survived wars, disease, and other things to become a global organization.
He noted that the pandemic will give the organization a new direction and focus. He encouraged Rotarians to be creative when choosing projects.
“Rotary will continue to evolve in its efforts to put service above self,” said Lancia, of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
He noted that when people look at Rotary, they will notice the impact the organization has had over the years.
“Every act of service, multiplied by all Rotary members over all these years, adds up,” Lancia said. “When you add them to the other acts done by other clubs, you realize the impact of the organization.”
Also at the gala, 2020-22 District Governor Ed Thurmond presented the club with a banner for all of its members to become Paul Harris Fellows. Those who achieve Fellowship have donated at least $1,000 to The Rotary Foundation, the charitable arm of Rotary Club International.
Only 20% of Rotary Clubs earn the designation each year, Thurmond said. There are over 46,000 clubs worldwide.
For the gala, Rotarians raised funds to help improve the community. They raised $36,000, he announced at the gala.
“I will say to the first 100 years at the Columbus Rotary Club, a job well done,” he said at the closing of the gala. “Tonight we kick off a new century and rededicate ourselves to service above ourselves.”