The Bluffton Rotary Club is a vibrant collection of citizens from diverse backgrounds and professions.
Their legacy of leadership helps the group accomplish some great things in our area. Their leadership is reflected in the Four Way Test, recited aloud by the group at every meeting, and is proffered for members to practice in their professional and personal lives: “Is it the Truth? Is it Fair to all concerned? Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships? Is it Beneficial to all concerned?”
Since 1988, the Club’s list of elected officers reads like a “who’s who” of Bluffton citizenry. Among them, Dot Jeger, past president (2012-2013), is proud of the Club’s reputation, and says, “The public can be confident that every dollar raised for community programs goes directly to support those projects.”
Dan Wood, past president (2005-2006), views the Club as a “premier civic organization.”
The current membership of approximately 85 members represents men and women of all ages. Dan said he has observed that, “New members often join to network and expand their business presence in the community. They recognize the importance of the mission and their goals and expectations shift to serving the community.”
Members actively seek out opportunities to alleviate need wherever they find it. Larger non-profit programs like Bluffton-Jasper Volunteers in Medicine and Bluffton Self Help receive substantial contributions towards their efforts.
Additionally, child welfare and development programs, have been regular service projects for the Club.
The Happy Feet program provides shoes to children who need them, and has evolved to include coats for students who need them. Rotarians donate food, backpacks and their time to Backpack Buddies so that children can take home food on Friday afternoons, sometimes providing the only food the family will have to sustain them through the weekend. It’s a simple, yet elegant, rationale: Students with good shoes, warm coats, and full stomachs can focus on doing their best in school and can become productive citizens in their own right.
The Rotary Club of Bluffton serves our community with vigor. In a directive initiated by current president Mike Covert, the group seeks out new areas of need in the community and brings those potential projects to the group for consideration. Mike shares, “This year we have raised more funds to support more initiatives than ever before!”
Turn your head in any direction in Bluffton, and you’ll likely be looking at a successful Rotary project.
For example, they were instrumental in creating Oscar Frazier Park and Community Center; initiating the project and raising funds for construction. The completed Community Center and the adjoining park were later gifted to the Town of Bluffton to provide a gathering place for community groups and an outdoor venue for concerts, picnics and other family-oriented activities.
Not all of the work done by Rotarians takes on such a serious demeanor. The Bluffton Village Festival, also known as Mayfest, is a fun, unique event in our community—drawing nearly 20,000 people to the streets of Old Town Bluffton one day every spring.
Thirty-eight years ago, native Babbie Guscio started the event.
It celebrated local artists and craftsmen, and a day of family fun and great food. The Rotary Club of Bluffton generously agreed in 2009 to take over the logistics and operations of the event. Additionally, the club supports the Bluffton Historic Arts and Seafood Festival, providing a significant amount of the volunteer labor for the week-long event.
Another of Rotary’s past leaders, Jim Hudson (2011-2012) is especially proud of their ongoing support local education. “Students, while being mentored by a Rotarian, develop a robust understanding of youth civic service and duty,” says Jim. They select and fundraise for their own projects. They also participate in Rotary Club of Bluffton’s own fundraising and service activities.
Dot Jeger is particularly mindful of the long-term benefits of introducing youth to the values taught by Rotary Club principles.
“Students are inspired through the experiences and learn that hard work and fellowship can create meaningful change in their communities, as well as in their own lives,” she says. During her leadership, she helped launch the USCB Rotaract Club. She facilitated the Interact Symposium to share ideas and experiences between high school clubs. She also started the Youth Exchange and the International Young Professionals programs.
The local group is a part of Rotary Club International, representing over 200 countries with a membership of more than 1.2 million men and women worldwide. Together, they work for disease prevention and treatment. They improve sanitation, maternal and child health, and education and literacy.
Rotary Club International has also played a key role in the eradication of the crippling impact of polio worldwide. Their support of this global public health project has been so successful that over the next year or so, polio will be relegated to a footnote in history.
But resting on their laurels is not the Rotarian way.
They’ve already identified the next global health need. They coordinate with world health organizations to support efforts to research and develop treatments for Alzheimer’s. The first step has already begun with the establishment of the Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust (C.A.R.T.). They vigorously funnel resources, both financial and professional, to help make Alzheimer’s a distant memory.
Whether ensuring that local kids have food to eat and good shoes to wear to school, or making sure that children in Peru have clean drinking water, the leaders of our community join together in the Bluffton Rotary Club to use their skills and experience to do some incredible work. Through this legacy of leadership, they become part of something bigger than themselves. They continuously build a better Bluffton and have some fun in the process. For the members of the Bluffton Rotary Club, their service above self makes them leaders in our community.
Written by Denise Milanese and Olive Moonstar