January is Rotary awareness month

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BRATTLEBORO — Rotary International, along with its various clubs throughout the world, has established January as Rotary Awareness Month.

"A lot of people don't know what Rotary International does. We want to get the word out," said Jeff Hagstrom, Brattleboro Rotary Club president.

One of the biggest focuses of the organization is working to eliminate polio. The club has worked closely with the World Health Organization and the Gates Foundation in this effort.

"We pretty much have polio eliminated, except for two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan," Hagstrom said.

Rotary International and the Gates Foundation have provided close to $600 million to combat polio worldwide. This includes the approximate $10,000 contributed by the Brattleboro Rotary Club and the Sunrise Rotary Club over the last five years.

Still, polio isn't the only focus of Rotary International.

The international organization has also focused on literacy and clean water. Club members have gone to various areas of the world to help map out well locations and to help provide water filters.

In fact, the roots of the program Pure Water for the World are in Brattleboro. In 1994, Peter Abell, a member of the Brattleboro Rotary Club, volunteered to go to a small Salvadoran village to provide medical services.

Abell was moved by the poor living conditions and vowed to make a difference and do something. With the support of the Brattleboro Rotary Club, Abell decided to help the people by providing rural villages with potable water. The success and interest of the club's activities soon outgrew the capacity of the Rotary Club. As a result, Pure Water for the World, Inc. was set up as a 501(c)(3) organization to carry out this humanitarian effort.

Pure Water for the World works in remote regions of developing countries that lack sustainable clean, safe drinking water. PWW works with local governments and community partners to select, analyze the appropriate technology for the community, and to implement cost effective projects.

For the past five years, the Brattleboro Rotary Club has been raising awareness and funds for Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The club has helped rebuild KILI Radio, a radio station committed to improving the lives of residents, gathered more than 250 old and broken laptops and refurbished 150 of them for students on the reservation, and helped collect more than 6,000 pounds of new material for traditional Native American quilts.

The Brattleboro Rotary Club uses funds raised from its annual Christmas tree sales and other efforts primarily for area high school scholarships. More than $500,000 in scholarships has been awarded over the past 25 years. This year, the club will be offering $18,000 to graduating seniors from area high schools, as well as a $2,500 scholarship to a Community College of Vermont student completing a degree in medical assisting. The CCV scholarship is in memory of the late Jesse Corum, a longtime member.

This year, the two Brattleboro clubs spearheaded efforts to build the new disc golf course and the new play train at Living Memorial Park. The club supports a number of projects in the community, both large and small, with cash and in-kind contributions. For example, during the winter months, the club takes a turn at supplying and serving meals for the Overflow Shelter. The club also raises funds by way of its annual Golf Tournament held the first Thursday in June. For the past four years, net proceeds benefited the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital's new emergency department. At the local level, members help charitable ventures when they arise.

The Brattleboro Rotary Club has over 70 members and the Sunrise Rotary Club has over 40 members. Rotarian members throughout the world follow the same four-way test. The questions addressed by the test include: Is it the truth, fair to all concerned, will it build goodwill and better friendships, and will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Hagstrom said people have to be invited into the club, and someone must vouch for them.

The Brattleboro Rotary Club, founded in 1950, has weekly meetings on Thursdays at 12:15 p.m. The Sunrise Rotary Club, founded in 1995, has weekly meetings on Wednesdays at 7:15 a.m. Both clubs meet at American Legion Post 5 , 32 Linden St. If you are interested in learning more about Rotary or attending a meeting, visit the Sunrise Rotary Club website at www.brattleborosunriserotary.org, or the Brattleboro Rotary Club website at www.brattlebororotaryclub.org.

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