I am pleased to contribute this letter to the 2017 “Salute to Rotary International.” The “Salute,” published in the fall of each year, has become a tradition in Howard County, and I am greatly indebted to The Business Monthly for its support to Rotary International over these many years.

What Is Rotary?

Rotary International (RI) is the oldest and one of the largest service organizations in the world. The first Rotary club was formed in Chicago on Feb. 23, 1905, by Paul Harris. Harris was an attorney who wished to recapture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he experienced in the small towns of his youth. The name “Rotary” is derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members’ offices.

Since that time, Rotary has grown to become a worldwide association of more than 1.25 million members, with more than 34,558 clubs based in more than 200 countries and geographical entities around the world.

For administrative purposes, the clubs are divided into districts. The 61 Rotary clubs of Central Maryland and Washington, D.C., make up District 7620, one of 538 districts around the world.

Each of these clubs exists to provide service, promote high ethical standards and work toward world peace and understanding. The clubs meet weekly to plan and engage in service projects that seek to improve and enrich the lives of individuals, both locally and internationally.

Rotary’s signature project since 1985 has been the eradication of polio. Working in tandem with the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other global partners, Rotarians have contributed more than $6 billion towards the polio eradication program.

In most parts of the world, polio was eradicated many years ago, but sadly, it still exists in isolated areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This year, fewer than 40 cases have been reported worldwide, so we are very close to eradicating this scourge forever. When that happens, it will be only the second disease (after smallpox) in the world that has been eradicated.
I must specifically mention the incredible partnership that Rotary has developed with the Gates Foundation. The foundation has so far contributed $500 million and growing to Rotary’s own fundraising efforts.

The 2,200 Rotarians in District 7620 continue to be very active in their respective communities, from Oktoberfest in Frederick and Carroll counties, Crab Feasts in Anne Arundel County, Turkey Chase in Montgomery County, Duck Race in Washington, D.C., and Oyster Fests in St. Mary’s County.
Once again, many clubs in our Rotary District will provide dictionaries to third-grade students throughout Central Maryland and Washington, D.C. We will continue to support the establishment of an Endowment Fund for the students at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

Rotary has always been extremely active within Howard County. Full details of the many projects supported by the seven Rotary clubs in Howard County appear elsewhere in this “Salute,” but let me quickly mention the project to help Head Start students go to summer camp. All of the Howard County Rotary clubs participate.

At the District 7620 level we have planted 1,100 trees towards our goal of 2,000 planted by June 30, 2018. We have also launched the opioid education program with educational forums around our District. Tom Allen from the Columbia-Patuxent Rotary is the chair for this project.

We have two new programs that started in September: the CART program (“Coins for Alzheimer’s Research”), and two satellite clubs: one in Emory Grove, north of Gaithersburg, and the other in Brunswick outside of Frederick. We have also increased our giving to Disaster Aid USA, which was started here in District 7620. Last year our membership donated $100,000, and this year we have donated $225,000 and growing. The increase is due partly to the number of hurricanes this year.

“Making A Difference” is the Rotary theme for this year. RI President Ian Riseley selected the theme and has asked Rotarians worldwide to Make A Difference. I encourage all of you who are reading this article to join a Rotary club in Howard County. Howard County has a long and proud history of service.

By joining with Rotary, you, too, can “Make A Difference.” Please contact District Executive Secretary Sherry Whitworth at rotary@district7620.org or at 240-205-9861 for more information.