If you visited the Washington Town & Country Fair last Thursday, you were greeted at the gate by members of the Washington Rotary Club. They were both scanning tickets as people came in and providing re-entry wristbands as they left.
Even more Washington Rotarians were manning the Rotary drink tent located next to the entertainment tent.
These are just a couple of the many ways the Washington Rotary Club provides service to the community and raises money to pour into projects in Washington and across Franklin County — projects like the All Abilities Playground, Rotary Riverfront Trail, Loving Hearts, Harvest Table, Franklin County Honor Flight, the YMCA Literacy Council . . . the list is long and constantly growing (see sidebar for a more complete list).
John Vietmeier, a member of the Washington Rotary Club since 2006, has a strong sense of pride both for his club and his community.
As the newly elected district governor for Rotary District 6060, which includes 51 Rotary clubs and some 2,000 members from Hannibal in northern Missouri to Hayti in the bootheel, Vietmeier is looking forward to shining a spotlight on Washington next month when the annual District Governor Conference is held here Sept. 21-22.
“It’s a great chance for us to show off our community and to show Rotarians from all over the district what the Rotary Clubs in Washington, Union and Sullivan do for their communities.”
As district governor, Vietmeier’s job will be to visit the clubs in District 6060 to get to know them and build relationships. His goal is to encourage those active members to stay active, figure out a way to get the not-so-active members a little more involved and look for ideas on attracting new members.
Vietmeier’s one-year term as district governor began July 1. He was elected three years ago as the designate.
Vietmeier is the third District 6060 governor to come from the Washington Rotary Club. Both Eric Park (2011-12) and Bill Schuck (2001-02) previously held the position.
However, this will mark the first time that the District Governor Conference will be held in Washington or anywhere outside of a major hotel or conference center.
Activities will be held at Jesuit Hall and the Farmers’ Market in Downtown Washington, with around 200 Rotarians from clubs across District 6060 expected to attend. It’s a large group of overnight guests for the community to handle, but Vietmeier is sure Washington is up to the challenge.
“We had the Missouri Main Street Conference here about five years ago with around 200 people in attendance, and everyone found a place to stay, so we are planning on that happening again with our group,” said Vietmeier.
Brings Rotarians Together
Washington Rotary member Joe Schneider will serve as chairman of the District Governor Conference, and fellow member Elda Seener will serve as co-chair.
The conference will include several workshops for members to attend, award presentations for various levels of activity or monetary support of the Rotary Foundation, and group meals, like the one being planned for under the Farmers’ Market pavilion Friday evening.
But the main purpose of the conference is for Rotarians to get together and share what they’re doing in their communities. In other words, networking, the principle upon which the organization was founded. “The purpose of the conference is to bring Rotarians together for a recap of what has been going on in the district,” said Vietmeier, explaining that clubs often get ideas from each other about possible projects/programs they can implement as well.
The district conference also is a great way to energize the members.
“Once you are able to socialize and see the organization at a larger level than just your community, it kind of jazzes you up and gets you more interested in doing things and getting involved,” said Vietmeier. “The next step would be the international conventions with 25,000 to 30,000 Rotarians in one city.”
One of the themes of next month’s District Governor Conference here will be community service.
“We have a service project every conference,” said Vietmeier. “Ours will be packing personal hygiene bags for those places in the community that would have the need to distribute them, like Loving Hearts Outreach, the police department, the food pantries, Harvest Table . . .”
The hygiene bags will be packed by youth who are involved with Rotary’s exchange student program.
“These are students who are sponsored by Rotarians,” said Seener. “They come here, and various members find them a host family.”
“We have exchange students quite often,” added Vietmeier. “And whenever we have an incoming student, we like to have an outgoing student, one going abroad too.
“The purpose of Rotary is to build those relationships around the world,” he explained. “Building peace through relationships with others, whether that’s in your own community or other communities.”
Rotary International offers several programs that encourage members to visit other countries and participate in exchanges.
Two Washington Rotary members obtain grants through Rotary International to support their volunteer work overseas each year, said Vietmeier. Dr. Greg Potts, who is currently serving as president of Washington Rotary, makes mission trips to Ghana every year and Dr. Jackie Miller does the same to Honduras with the Washington Overseas Mission.
The theme of Rotary International this year is Rotary Connects the World.
New Members Welcome
The Washington Rotary Club, which currently has 109 members, is one of the biggest clubs in District 6060. And more members are always welcome, said Vietmeier.
It used to be that Rotary Clubs limited members to only one from each profession as a way to bring a diversity of ideas and talents into the club, he said. But that rule has fallen by the wayside.
New members do not need to be invited to join, but they do need to be a sponsored by a current Rotary member.
Anyone who is interested in joining Rotary should go online to www.washingtonrotary.com to complete a member ship application.
“We will contact them to learn a little more about them and assign them a sponsor to present them to the club,” said Vietmeier.
The Washington Rotary Club meets at noon every Thursday at the Washington KC Hall. Members are expected to attend meetings regularly and participate in events and projects as much as possible.
“The goal is to welcome new members who want to be actively involved,” said Schneider. “It’s not about having an item for your resume.
“There’s plenty of socialization here,” he was quick to point out, “but this is a working club. Networking is key too. You have to be willing to put in the work.”
There are 35,000 Rotary clubs in the world, and they meet either in the morning for breakfast or at lunch. For some people, neither time works for their schedule, so the Washington Rotary Club is working toward holding an evening meeting once a month.
“We are taking steps to be flexible to encourage participation,” said Vietmeier. “That’s an issue for all of our clubs.”
Rotarians are not limited to attending meetings of their own club. They are welcome to attend a meeting at any club location and are even encouraged to do so when they are out of town for work or vacation.
Each club has a trading flag that they give to visiting members to take back to share with their home club, said Seener.
There also are no boundaries on what club a member has to join. In Franklin County, there are three Rotary clubs — in Union, Washington and Sullivan. There are members of the Washington club who live in Union and vice versa, said Seener.
Founded in 1970
The Washington Rotary Club No. 2353 was founded Oct. 23, 1970. It was sponsored by the Union Rotary Club.
Founding members included Don Means, Dr. Don Northington, Dr. Sam Farrell and L.B. Eckelkamp.
The Washington Rotary Club will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. Rotary has a long tradition in this part of Missouri. One of the clubs in St. Louis is No. 11, which means it was the 11th club established in the world.
“Rotary started in Evanston, Ill., near Chicago, so it didn’t take long to spread to St. Louis,” said Vietmeier.
The St. Louis club still meets in its original location, the Missouri Athletic Club.
Schneider, who joined Rotary 26 years ago as a charter member of the Chesterfield club, said what he likes most about being a Rotarian is the community service and the projects.
“When I came to town to work at the bank, I wanted to be part of a club that doesn’t just party or do an event once a year, but does substantial community service,” said Schneider. “I wanted to help others because I could.”
Vietmeier echoed those same feelings.
“Rotarians are professionals who get together to socialize, exchange ideas and lead with an action plan to change,” he said. “When I joined Rotary, it was a service organization that helped people and helped people’s lives.
“We are all members of other organizations — I am on the board of public works, Joe and I are in Downtown Washington Inc. — but Rotary is an organization that intends to help people increase their financial stability, provides scholarships for kids, helps the homeless, feeds and takes care of the elderly at the Riverfront Trail Day . . . ”
Rotary also offers a chance to mentor young professionals and a provide those same young professionals a place to practice their business skills, things like networking and public speaking.
“It’s where we can support each other and work together,” said Vietmeier.
Seener, who joined Rotary 23 years ago, mentioned the global reach of Rotary International and the contributions people can make to those causes through the Rotary International Foundation.
“The key thing that pulled me in was the projects they do,” she said, noting that funds are used to provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene, fight disease like polio and HIV/AIDS, promote peace, support mothers and children, support education and grow local economies.
“When you donate to the Foundation that’s what that money goes for,” said Seener. “One project of Rotary International is to eradicate polio globally, and we are down to just three countries left.”
As district governor, Vietmeier is enthusiastic about getting Rotary members to support the Foundation. His vision is to have all Rotarians in District 6060 join in supporting the Foundation to change lives.
For more information on the Washington Rotary Club, go to www.washingtonrotary.com.
Washington Rotary Club Proudly Supports . . .
American Heart Association Heart Walk
Buddies Not Bullies
Downtown Post Office Renovation
East Central College
Foundations for Franklin County
Franklin County Area United Way
Franklin County BackStoppers
Franklin County Honor Flight
Friends of Emmaus
Knights of Columbus Grounds Improvements
Loving Hearts Outreach
Melanoma Miles for Mike
Mercy Hospital Washington ER Renovation
Our Lady of Lourdes Trustees for Technology
Parents as Teachers
Pregnancy Assistance Center
Rainbow Activity Center
Relay for Life
Riverfront Trail Day
Rotary Riverfront Trail
School Playground Projects at Campbellton, Immanuel Lutheran, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Francis Borgia, South Point and Washington West elementary schools
St. Francis Borgia Regional High School Track and Field Renovation
St. Peter’s United Church of Christ Food Pantry
St. Francis Borgia Food Pantry
St. John the Baptist-Gildehaus Food Pantry
Thanksgiving Day Dinner
Jaycees All-Abilities Playground
Washington Farmers’ Market
Washington Police Department
Washington Senior Center
YMCA Literacy Council