The Rotary Club of the Parks recently hit a milestone — celebrating 10 years of community service.
The Rotary Club of the Parks’ numbers may have fluctuated some over the years, but one thing that remains consistent is its dedication to the community.
March 18 marked the club’s 10th anniversary, a milestone for the organization that has remained resilient and reliable since its inception.
Club members and guests gathered March 11 at Tutto Café to celebrate the club’s 10th anniversary. And with its recent Stroll for Smiles fundraiser — which benefits Sharing Smiles, a nonprofit that provides cleft palate surgeries and follow-up care for children in the poorest communities — in the books, the club has another reason to celebrate. The fourth annual stroll raised more than $9,000 for Sharing Smiles, the largest amount raised in the event’s history.
It’s just one community-based event of many the Rotary Club hosts or participates in each year.
“The members have come together as friends and working partners, too, for common good,” says Gene Hess, a charter member and the club treasurer. “We’ve matured together as a unit as far as what we want to do for the community and what we want to do for the world, because we do community projects that are very local. Wherever there’s a need … we jump in and work hard. Also, for international projects, we try to work with international (organizations) to help with whatever it is.”
As a charter member, Hess has seen the club through many projects and events since its inception. Originally chartered in 2010 as the Rotary Club of Baldwin Park, the club has since evolved to include Winter Park and Audubon Park — thus necessitating the current name. The original club was started with between 22 and 24 members.
Hess jumped aboard as a charter member because she has always wanted to give back to the community. It’s something she has known her whole life; her father was a Lions Club member.
“When I found out there was a Rotary Club beginning … I jumped in and wanted to be a Rotarian,” she says. “I was amazed at the community around the world. I travel a lot, and every country I go to, Rotary is so strong in every country, and it’s beautiful to see.”
As a whole, Rotary International brings together 1.2 million neighbors, friends, business and community leaders to create positive, lasting change in various communities and around the world.
Through Rotary, volunteers dedicate time and talent to provide humanitarian service and impact lives at both the local and international levels — from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world.
The Rotary Club of the Parks is thriving now, but things haven’t always been smooth sailing. It has moved all over Baldwin Park in terms of meeting locations, and membership has fluctuated, too. Currently, there are 18 members.
“I’m very proud of the club, because we started off with, I think, 24 members, then we went down to five or six, and we bounced back,” Hess says. “We’re very resilient, and they’re very dedicated.”
Kathleen Peters, assistant governor of the Rotary Club of the Parks, joined the group in 2012 as a way to meet her neighbors and socialize while doing good in the community at the same time. She loves being able to make a difference.
“I just like the relaxed atmosphere and the focus on community service,” Peters says. “Most of our hands-on service are the local projects around town. … Because we are small, we try to pick the right-sized service projects and fundraisers so we don’t totally wear people out. There’s kind of a place for everybody. For me, it means that as a small club, we’re viable. We can do good in our community and the world, even though we’re small but mighty. We make a difference in our community in the Orlando area and in the world.”
Rotary Club of the Parks has participated in numerous community-service projects — from packing emergency kits for the homeless to starting a Fourth of July celebration event years ago. Members also adopt families from Baldwin Park Elementary and Glenridge Middle at Christmastime, and they fund the schools’ emergency food pantries.
We can do good in our community and the world, even though we’re small but mighty. We make a difference in our community in the Orlando area and in the world.”— Kathleen Peters
Anyone is welcome to join the Rotary Club of the Parks or sit in on a meeting as a guest to find out what it’s all about and how they can get involved to make the next 10 years even better.
“Rotary is very, very powerful, and I’m very proud to be a member,” Hess says. “So many of the people in this club are now extremely good friends of mine. I’ve traveled with several of them. … We meet up outside (of meetings), we go to movies together, we go to plays together, and you just develop such wonderful friendships in this organization. We’re very proud to be Rotarians.”