Rotary makes a difference locally, globally

Published 9:22 am Thursday, March 17, 2016

Your lungs burn like they are filled with battery acid from each gasping breath. Your legs ache as if they are on fire every time your muscles flex. Your feet feel as if you are running barefoot across gravel despite the high-tech running shoes.

That’s how some marathon runners describe the last 1,000 yards of the 26.2 miles.

Now, imagine that marathon started 37 years ago and, instead of miles, the distance is measured in lives saved and countries impacted.

That is exactly the case when it comes to Rotary International and the effort to eradicate polio from the world.

Rotarians have helped immunize more than 2.5 billion children, eliminating the debilitating muscle disease from all but two countries — Afghanistan and Pakistan — in the world.

The effort, led by the service organization and several partners, is THIS close to eradicating polio entirely. There is a very good chance that we will cross that finish line within the next year.

It is with that amazing milestone in sight that I am humbled and honored to serve as the president of the Niles-Buchanan Rotary Club for the year that starts July 1.

Rotary, a service organization that started as a business-networking group in Chicago, now includes 1.2 million members in more than 33,000 clubs across 200 countries.

Having been a Rotarian for the past 15 years, I have seen first-hand how powerful the organization’s legacy truly is, but this message really sank in last week during three days of president-elect training.

The global impact is astounding and heartwarming. But Rotary’s contributions also hit much closer to home.

Locally, our club has given away tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships, helped with the ER expansion of Lakeland Hospital, performed a variety of beautification projects, made the holidays brighter for dozens of families and helped support countless other organizations in their community service efforts.

In addition to the fight against polio, the Niles-Buchanan club has contributed to a variety of international projects including establishing clean-water wells.

But, like many civic clubs, we are challenged by the lack of membership growth in recent years. It is a combination of busy lives, competition for volunteers and, maybe somewhat, even an erosion of the values that Rotary was built on 111 years ago.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I believe our community has dozens of undiscovered Rotarians, individuals who want to be part of a fun organization that makes a difference at home and abroad. I would love to invite anyone interested to attend a Wednesday lunch meeting as my guest. Just send me an email or give me a call.

Rotary is THIS close to eliminating polio. You can be the one to help us cross that finish line and make our world a better place.


Michael Caldwell is the publisher of Leader Publications LLC. He can be reached at (269) 687-7700 or by email at