After the first group grew to more than 100 members, a second was founded to accommodate more participants; the community benefits
By Julia Sommer for Ashland.news
Ashland has not one but two Rotary clubs: Rotary Club of Ashland, founded in 1941, and Rotary Club of Ashland Lithia Springs, launched in 1992. They are part of a service and camaraderie organization started in Chicago in 1905 by business and professional men, now numbering 1.4 million men and women worldwide in over 46,000 clubs.
Why does Ashland have two clubs?
Greg Williams, retired co-owner of Ashland Flower Shop & Greenhouses, established by his family in 1905, is perhaps the longest-serving Ashland Rotarian, having joined in 1979 at age 23. He recalls that the main reason for the Rotary Club of Ashland splitting in two was too many members (well over 100), and a desire for a morning meeting alternative. Medford’s Rotary Club had split some years before for the same reasons. Rotary Club of Ashland meets Thursdays at noon at the Methodist Church; Rotary Club of Ashland Lithia Springs meets at 7 a.m. Tuesdays at the Presbyterian Church. Visitors are welcome, preferably at the invitation of a member.
“Rotary was a great way for me to meet other business people in town, and to serve the community,” says Williams.
Amy Lepon is a charter member of the Rotary Club of Ashland Lithia Springs. She was invited to join by a colleague at Southern Oregon University and has been active ever since. “I believe in Rotary’s mission,” she says. “And I’ve met people I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Service Above Self
Rotary International’s motto is “Service Above Self.” Its Four-Way Test is:
Of the things we think, say, or do:
- 1. Is it the truth?
- 2. Is it fair to all concerned?
- 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
It took a 1987 Supreme Court decision to open Rotary membership to women. Today they often play leadership roles.
Janet Troy, executive director of the Ashland Community Health Foundation, is president of Rotary Club of Ashland. She joined in 2009.
“I had just moved to Ashland for my job, which required I join Rotary,” she explains. “It’s a great way to get to know the community.”
This year’s Rotary Lithia Springs president is small-business coach and consultant Michael Hansen, who joined right after graduating from SOU in 1991 while working for the family business, Gold & Gems Fine Jewelry on the plaza.
“Rotary has been my primary passion after family and business,” he says. Hansen’s motto for the year: “Give What You Can, Take What You Need.”
Promoting peace, good health, education
The two clubs jointly sponsor Ashland Reads in May for all first-graders. Ashland Reads is slated for May 8 next year.
Rotary International raises money to promote peace, fight disease (especially polio), provide clean water and sanitation, support education, grow local economies, protect the environment and more. For specifics, see its website: rotary.org.
Ashland’s two clubs raise money for local scholarships, host the popular Easter Egg Hunt in Lithia Park, the Rotary Garden near Emigrant Lake — which grew over 6,000 pounds of food this year for Ashland Community Food Bank — plus housing and water projects in Ashland’s sister city of Guanajuato, Mexico.
They also enroll children in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library (free monthly books mailed to children up to age 5), take part in community blood drives, and sponsor the Interact Club — Rotary’s program for high schoolers — at Ashland High School and the Rotaract Club (for young adults) at SOU.
The main fundraiser for Rotary Club of Ashland this year will be a dinner and auction April 11 at Ashland Hills Hotel with the theme Creating Hope — the motto of this year’s Rotary International president, Gordon McInally, from Scotland.
The Lithia Springs club’s major fundraiser is its annual CrabFest in March at the SOU student union during the height of crab season. Last year, the first after the COVID shutdown, CrabFest netted $43,000 with almost 250 attendees; $19,000 is going to career and technical education scholarships at Ashland High.
Alan Harper, president of the Ashland Rotary Club Foundation, has been a Rotarian since 1996. “Rotary is an opportunity for service,” he says. “It’s hard to make a difference on your own. You can make a much bigger impact joining with a bunch of like-minded people making positive things happen.”
Harper was president of Rotary Club of Ashland in 2019-20, when COVID arrived.
Adapting to pandemic
“We quickly put together Zoom meetings,” he recalls. “We wanted to keep the energy going and not sit on the money we had raised.”
Rotary Club of Ashland has a scholarship endowment fund of almost $1.5 million. Other fundraising this year netted $63,000, of which $18,000 was dedicated to scholarships for SOU and AHS students.
Kim Galloway is the Rotary Club Lithia Springs Foundation chair. She joined in 2009 and has been president twice. Galloway had polio as a child, and initially joined because of Rotary’s mission to eradicate polio worldwide.
“I had time to volunteer, Rotary matched my values, and I wanted to be of service to the community,” she says.
Galloway also kept the club together via Zoom during the pandemic. “Quite a few Rotary clubs didn’t survive the shutdown,” she notes. Both Ashland clubs continue to offer attendance via Zoom.
Jerry Kenefick is another Lithia Springs club early adopter, joining in 1993 after relocating from Southern California. He served as president in 2008 and is now treasurer.
“I like people, it’s fun,” he says. One of his favorite club activities is joining the ACCESS powerpack every Friday morning in Medford, which provides weekend food for over 500 schoolchildren. “I get such joy out of it,” he says. “We need to bring energy back and meet face to face — it’s important psychologically and socially.”
Juli Di Chiro is assistant governor of Rotary, covering the greater Jackson County area. A retired Ashland superintendent of schools (2000-13), she has been a member of Rotary Club of Ashland since 2000.
“The club was founded in 1941 by Ashland’s then-superintendent of schools, and every superintendent since has been a member of the club,” she explains. “I’ve found Rotary to be the best vehicle to effectively serve the community and the world.”
Di Chiro is also International Service chair and Global Grants chair at the district level, which covers 62 Rotary clubs in the southern half of Oregon.
Currently, the Rotary Club of Ashland has about 100 members, the Rotary Club of Ashland Lithia Springs club about 50. New members are welcome at both clubs. The annual Ashland Rotary Open Social will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at Growler Guys, with German beer, wine, and brats on hand. All are welcome.
For more information about Rotary Club of Ashland, see ashlandrotary.org.
For more information about Rotary Club of Ashland Lithia Springs, see lithiaspringsrotary.org.
Email freelance writer Julia Sommer of Ashland at email@example.com.
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