JAY – “Service above self” has long been Rotary International’s motto. Now, with the assistance of the Newport Rotary Club, that tradition is moving to a new generation of Rotarians, with North Country Union High School’s Interact Club.
Members of the Interact Club and the Newport Rotary Club met at Jay Peak Resort Friday for Interact Club’s official kickoff. The day included inspirational speeches, time at the resort’s water park and a luncheon.
Newport Rotary Club President Doug Spates welcomed the young Rotarians who are stepping up and joining an organization he believes is one of the finest in the country and perhaps the world.
“You are among an elite group of young adults who realize through your efforts of volunteerism you can make an important difference,” said Spates. He went on to talk about one of Rotary’s great accomplishments. “In 1985, Rotary became a partner in global polio eradication worldwide and began immunization of children against polio.”
Thanks to Rotarians, the number of worldwide polio cases plummeted more than 99 percent, preventing five million instances of child paralysis and 253,000 deaths.
Polio prevention is just one of Rotarians' humanitarian efforts. Eli Manning and Peyton Manning, elite quarterbacks, partner with the American Red Cross to deliver emergency supplies to victims of natural disasters.
Tom Kenny, the well-known voice of Sponge Bob Square Pants, makes calls to seriously ill children throughout the United States and Canada. Actor Denzel Washington has been national spokesperson for the Boys and Girls Club of America for the past 18 years. Prince Harry volunteers with Map Action, an organization that produces maps for national disaster areas.
“We, together, today, can make a huge difference in the lives of the people in the Northeast Kingdom and beyond,” said Spates. “Today marks the beginning of a long and important relationship between you, our area youth and the Newport Rotary Club.”
Interact Chairman for Rotary District 7850, Jay Polimeno, said he’s amazed at all that’s transpired towards the creation of North Country’s Club since he introduced the idea to the Newport Rotary Club eight months ago. Polimeno told the new Rotarians: “Your club success will depend on the amount of doers you have, not upon the number of joiners who may just join up,” said Polimeno. “Each year, Interact clubs complete at least two community service projects, one of which furthers international understanding and goodwill.”
The new Rotarians heard from two of North Country’s alumni, Don Whipple from Whipple’s Studio, a Rotarian, and Tina Bliss from Vermont Pie and Pasta.
Whipple told the students they are starting a tradition to give back to the community. Whipple reminded the young Rotarians that Newport Rotarians are not the adult figures.
“We are your joint comrades, so to speak, in your efforts,” said Whipple. “Please be encouraged and feel free to speak, to engage in a dialog with each and every one of us in this process.”
Some of the new Rotarians are very anxious to help those less fortunate, especially in foreign countries where food is not as plentiful as it is in the United States.
“It’s amazing that just a little bit of money can buy a lot of food in those countries,” Whipple said. “I can’t wait to see the great things you do. The personal satisfaction that you’re going to get will last the rest of your lives. No matter where you go, you will have no problem jumping in and making a difference in your community.”
Tina Bliss, who spoke about how she got started in the restaurant business as a teenager, encouraged the young Rotarians to work hard, be committed and have passion at their entry-level jobs.
“You never know what path it could take you,” she said. “More importantly, you never know what you can possibly learn that will later help you in your career.”
Bliss spoke about the importance of volunteering for the less fortunate. She said she has taught many young people how to work. “We just don’t just provide jobs; we provide an opportunity for young people to grow,” said Bliss.
Betsy Hampton, of the Pope Memorial Frontier Animal Society, owned a gift shop on Newport’s Main Street for several years. She told the Rotarians she believes people who start something need to finish it, without asking for everyone else to help them and invest in them. “You need to take charge of your own destiny and play it out,” said Hampton. “If you find something you really are passionate about, you stay with it, you don’t let others discourage you.”
Bill Stenger, president and CEO of Jay Peak Resort, said Rotarians worldwide do wonderful work. Success, said Stenger, relies on the cooperation of people in many different levels. The Interact Club can mean a lot to its members, North Country Union High School and the greater Newport area, said Stenger. He complimented the students for joining their new club.
Stenger urged the students to think about what they’re going to do once their education is finished. “A leader is only as good as he or she surrounds themselves with,” said Stenger. “Being involved with an organization like Rotary and some of things you’re doing with this new concept will help you a lot.”
“One person can start something, but it takes a team to really make things happen in this world,” said Marilyn Bedell, Rotary District Governor. “Rotary truly is a network of inspired individuals who translate their passion into relevant social causes to change lives in their communities, both locally and internationally. We’re inviting you to help us change lives. If we can eliminate polio, then maybe we can begin tackling other diseases that really impacted lives.”