By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
A top Rotary Club official visited Gainesville’s noon club lunch meeting on Wednesday and urged local members to stay active in recruiting new and younger members.
Jim Giffin, governor of Rotary District 5790 — which includes Gainesville, among the district’s 14 multi-city areas — said the humanitarian causes of Rotary Club are kept alive and strong through the continuum of club organization.
He said Gainesville’s club made the 48th he had visited since becoming district governor in July, the same month City of Gainesville City Manager Barry Sullivan began leading the local club as president.
“You guys are healthy and that’s wonderful and you ought to be proud of yourselves,” Giffin said Wednesday. “I think what you’re focused on is a limited number of things so that you can do them well, which is really a good idea.”
The governor said he serves as a “conduit of ideas” on how to improve Rotary-ordained actions.
Giffin also serves, he said, as a resource.
“My task is not to assign you goals and you don’t have any goals for me this year,” he said. “My job is to help you have the tools necessary for the goals you’ve set for your club and achieve what you want to do in your community.
“If you do those things, and all clubs do those things, then you’ll all be successful.”
More about Gainesville Rotary Club
In 2012, officials of the Gainesville branch discussed exactly what they do. Member Earl Russell said Rotary Club isn’t simply a social lunch group or a “fun-and-games” organization.
“If you’ll notice on the national news, virtually every speaker — a major speaker when a major address is given to the public — has the Rotary Club emblem on the podium, or a Rotary Club person behind the speaker,” he said. “This is the only social organization that exists whose primary purpose is service.”
Russell added that Rotarians serve effectively because they’re generally business leaders who have familiarity with being in charge. This means experience with organization and with mobilizing activities that cost money. This comes into use when the Gainesville Rotary Club volunteers for DASH food delivery to people in need or donates money to agencies such as Volunteers In Service To Others (VISTO) and Cooke County United Way.
Club President and First State Bank Executive Vice-President Ryan Morris, whose great-grandfather Frank chartered the city’s first Rotary meeting in 1920, said the club supports many local causes as a matter of course. But the support regularly comes in more forms than one.
“For some, we write a check,” he said. “But we also donate a lot of man hours.”
The most pronounced example of Rotary Club’s local impact, Morris said, is its annual flag program. Rotarians accept annual fees to visit residential and commercial addresses in Cooke County and raise American flags on these properties during national holidays.
“It’s a fundraiser that helps everyone show their patriotism locally,” Morris said. “And when you see all the flags, it’s deceptively simple; it’s both a fundraiser and a huge community service. It gives our community the ability to display its patriotism and fund scholarships and other programs sponsored by the Rotary Club.”
Retired Air Force officer Bill Burhans said he became a Gainesville Rotarian in 2003. He soon found himself using his military background in Russian translation to help host Rotary-sponsored group study exchange programs that included trips to western and eastern Siberia. He and program members exchanged information and cultural influence with Rotarian counterparts abroad.
“Those kinds of programs are very important,” he said. “Doing the Rotary thing: passing on experience and service to others. In that regard, I was very fortunate to do that.”