Rotary impact community year round
by Emily Adams
From the left, Rotarians David Hobbs, Charles Sims and Gary Smith receive tickets for their upcoming barbecue plate fundraiser on Oct. 26. Monies raised will support youth scholarships, Christmas baskets and a host of other Rotary projects
SYLACAUGA — The Rotary Club tends to fly under the radar with most of its community efforts, and that quiet impact is largely by design.

“Most people see Rotary as a business and professional club, which is true,” said President Vanessa Green. “But more than that, and what people probably don’t notice, is that we are a community-oriented service group. We have a desire and passion to serve.”

From soup drives to scholarships, the club supports projects that reach nearly every corner of the community. To fund its many efforts, Rotary is currently selling $8 tickets for its annual barbecue plate fundraiser. Those who buy a plate can pick it up Oct. 26 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church. Whole Boston butts and slabs of ribs will also be available.

“Each year we set a goal, and this year it is $10,000, to distribute amongst those in need,” said fundraising chairman Gary Smith. “This one fundraiser directly funds that necessity in the community, and it supplies our needs for the year.”

Among other endeavors, the clubs provides scholarships for four local students each year and Christmas baskets for several families in need. It holds soup drives for the Care House and dog food drives for the Animal Rescue Foundation. Rotary also funds the Boys Club and has a long-lasting relationship with B.B. Comer Library, as it was a founding member and continues to fund the library today.

Of all its projects, the Christmas baskets have the greatest effect on everyone involved, said Rotarian Al Mathis. The baskets of food, clothing and toys are given to selected families about two week before Christmas. They are delivered without the children’s knowledge, so parents are the ones to give the gifts on Christmas Day.

“A lot of things we’re doing, we write a check for a different organization, but with the baskets, we actually go to the family, find out their needs, and then go buy the items for the kids,” Mathis said. “The greatest thing is when we deliver it and see their faces. It’s that time we spend in the home with these families that lets us know we’re helping them have a better Christmas.”

Old and new members alike say the 77-year-old Sylacauga Rotary provides great personal and business benefits, as its members represent a diversity of professions.

“A lot of times, if I have some type of legal or medical question, I will take advantage of not being billed for the advice,” Mathis said with a laugh. “But really, it’s always good to be able to share thoughts and get an idea of what people in different professions are thinking.”

Rotary International is the largest civic group in existence, with more than 34,000 clubs and 1.2 million members worldwide. It is guided by the motto, “Service above Self,” and also by the four-way test, which asks members to consider the following questions before thinking, saying or doing: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Green said Rotary, which opened membership to women in the 90s, ties its members to a larger purpose.

“It doesn’t matter what town, city or country you are in,” she said. “When you see a Rotary sign, it gives you strength, peace, confidence and the knowledge that you are part of a family of service.”

The Rev. Charles Sims, a 40-year Rotarian, said he most appreciates the club’s commitment to service above self.

“That, to me, is the foundation on which we develop our projects and our work,” Sims said. “And that is a spin-off of something the Lord said, ‘The greatest among you will be your servant,’ and really we are a servant people. Personally, I think the Rotary Club, among all of the clubs I am acquainted with, best exemplifies an extension of the mission of the Christian church, to go into all the world and share the resources and help you can give.”

The club meets every Tuesday at noon at the Coosa Valley Medical Center Conference Room. For more information, contact Green at 256-404-8661.

Contact Emily Adams at

© 2012