This time yesterday, your editor here was honored to be the monthly speaker at the Rotary Club of West Seattle, talking about covering news in West Seattle. Since then, there’s big news involving club members and more than 3,000 of their fellow regional Rotarians – Rotary International District 5030 is the first organization in 68 years to receive the Seattle-King County First Citizen Award. West Seattle is one of 53 clubs comprising District 5030, and is home to its district governor, Ann Liberato, at right in our July 2011 photo below, with club president Sue Lindblom:
The news release we just received from the First Citizen Award’s sponsoring organization, Seattle-King County Realtors, quotes award-committee chair Roni Strupat: “Rather than single out an individual, we are delighted to honor an organization with remarkable dedication – and results — in meeting the challenges associated with hunger, poverty and illiteracy.” District 5030 will officially receive the award at a Seattle Sheraton banquet on June 13th. Read on for the district’s accomplishments, listed in the announcement:
· Partners for Work, a project developed by the Rotary Club of Auburn in 2003. It creates employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities by utilizing Rotarian business leadership as a vital link between job candidates and paid work.
· The Third Grade Dictionary Project, a literacy program that provides dictionaries to all third grade students living within the area of the district’s 53 clubs.
· Rotary First Harvest (RFH), a project started by two members of the University District club in 1982. Since then, RFH has gathered more than 100 million pounds of produce for food banks in Washington state and other needy parts of the region. Along with feeding the hungry with surplus nutritious food, the RFH project has expanded to include improving food distribution and transportation systems, developing innovative hunger relief solutions and replicating the concept in other geographic areas.
The announcement also quotes the district governor:
Liberato hopes the award will further understanding of Rotary’s worldwide impact and inclusiveness. “What many people may not realize is that Rotarians are a mix of young to old, all ethnicities, and all religions united around service and the greater goal of getting to know each other to achieve a more peaceful world. The organization is a wonderful combination of friendship, networking and service locally, regionally and globally.”
Like other First Citizen Award recipients, Rotary has myriad achievements within King County and beyond.
One of the most significant may be its international flagship program to eradicate polio. “We are reminded in this global economy that if we do not eradicate polio it is only one airplane ride away from infecting the United States once again,” Liberato remarked. The campaign, spanning more than 25 years, is nearing completion thanks in part to generous cohorts, she stated. Liberato singled out partnerships on PolioPlus with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and PATH (a nonprofit catalyst for global health) as an example of Rotary’s collaborative spirit.
Since 1985, when Rotary International created its PolioPlus immunization program, the organization has contributed more than $1 billion and countless volunteer hours to protecting more than 2 billion children in 122 countries. With its community-based network worldwide, Rotary is the volunteer arm of a global partnership dedicated to eradicating polio. At its 2009 Rotary International Assembly, the organization received a $355 million challenge grant from the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
At the local level, Liberato said there are numerous parks around King County that Rotary Clubs have donated and maintain. And, she added, “Many of our young people obtain Rotary scholarships that provide opportunities for higher education at both vocational and university levels.”
“Rotary is all about giving back to their communities, said Liberato, a member of the Rotary Club of West Seattle. “I find it amazing that, as far as I know, we are the only organization in the world whose club members pay their own way for international service projects. “Rotarians who participate in a National Immunization Day in India or help install malaria nets in Zambia have spent their own money, along with investing their time, to make a difference.”
Last year’s First Citizen Award went to former Seattle Mariner Jamie Moyer and wife Karen Moyer.