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“Service above Self”

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Interacting with Rotary members and youth

By Patty Unruh

Members of the Peak to Peak Rotary Club met with students from Gilpin County School’s Interact Club and their families the evening of May 21 at the Gilpin County Community Center. The purposes of the meeting were to honor the students, acquaint the two groups with one another, and familiarize the youth with the goals and work of Rotary.

The evening began with a taco and fajita bar. Following dinner, Rotarian host Neal Standard welcomed the group of about forty guests. He said that their Rotary Club had been sponsors of the Gilpin School Interact for the past ten years.

Rotarians present were Neal Standard, Barbara Thielemann, Lynn Hirshman, Linda Jones, Ann Schaefer, Becky Shirley, Rosalie Bargmann, Jaydene Morrison, Frank Lutz, and Susan Lutz.  Peak to Peak Rotary territory covers Central City to Nederland. The group guides the Gilpin Interact members in developing local and international service projects. Curt Halsted, art instructor at the school, is the club’s school advisor.

Interact Club members present were Delainey Lepro, Grace Diekman, Nina Halsted, Dante Nadeau, Jada Gohdes, Annabelle Diekman, Rachel Schmalz, Chase Boulter, and John Lovett.

Standard told the guests that he had been a recruiter for the Federal government in 1971 and found that young men and women who had been involved in extra-curricular activities such as Interact made the best employees. He advised, “I absolutely guarantee that what you’re doing is money in your pockets” as far as getting jobs.

Rotary advisor Rosalie Bargmann also put in a word to the guests. “The seeds for the idea of Interact were planted in May 2003,” she noted, commenting that they were there to celebrate ten years of hard work by Interact students over the years. “You are standing on the shoulders of giants of leadership,” she said.

Bill Downes, a Rotary assistant governor from Evergreen, gave the main address. Downes clearly articulated his commitment to the ideals of Rotary, stating, “It’s about service above self and about ethics.”

He explained that Rotary was started in 1905 by attorney Paul Harris, who wanted to capture a friendly spirit in a professional club. The Rotary name came from the practice of rotating meetings among the members’ offices.

Downes said it is now the largest service organization in the world, with the possible exception of the Red Cross. Rotary includes 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs in about 200 countries. He noted that there are 3,200 Rotarians in 68 clubs in the Denver District, which includes towns from Castle Rock to Longmont and Breckenridge to Brush.

Downes explained that Rotary offers opportunities for club and vocational service, where members carry experience back to their clubs, as well as for international, regional, and community projects to foster goodwill. He gave the example of Rotary’s signature international project to eradicate polio. There used to be 40,000 cases per year, Downes advised, but now polio is only in three countries with 100 cases, so this disease is very close to being removed from the world.

He conceded that Rotary’s senior club membership is declining due to the age of the members, so Rotarians are hoping to involve more young people through Interact Clubs.

Interact is a service and social club founded in 1960 by Rotary International for youth ages 14 to 18. “Interact” is short for “International Action.” It is student led, with currently more than 200,000 participants worldwide. The group follows the Rotary Motto of “Service above Self,” promoting leadership, integrity, helpfulness, respect, responsibility, and hard work. The clubs also seek to promote international understanding and good will, just as the senior clubs do.

Rotary International requires that Interact clubs to do a local service project and an international project every year. Some school and community projects done by the Gilpin club in the past include landscaping at Gilpin County School, helping the Denver Rescue Mission, and organizing a holiday party at Denver Health Center. International projects include Pencils for Peace in Afghanistan, fund-raising for humanitarian groups like Heifer International, and water projects in Africa.

Other opportunities available for Interact students include being an exchange student, receiving scholarships, or going to RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Award) summer camp in Estes Park for one week. Downes was enthusiastic about the camp, saying he’s never seen someone go who doesn’t love it. He praised it as a totally energizing and life changing program.

At the close of the meeting, advisor Curt Halsted spoke about doing the annual Penny War for the benefit of Nets for Action. “We have a kid at our school in seventh grade whose family goes every year to Africa. This year, we raised money to buy 200 malaria nets for villagers, with matching funds from Rotary. A lot of people were saved from being exposed to malaria.”

Standard presented Halsted, whom he called “our hero,” with a token of appreciation for his help. Halsted in his turn liked seeing all the families. He noted that parents of Interact students were also likely to be involved in their community. “Pillars of the community create pillars of the community,” he encouraged. “Keep it up.”

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