"Reach Within to Embrace Humanity." On behalf of 2011-2012 Rotary International President Kalyan Banerjee, this is the message that District Governor 7410 Paul "Budd" O'Malia brought to Lehighton Rotary Club on Monday morning.
Rotary International is the world'sfirst service club organization – started by Chicago lawyer Paul Harris and three business associates in 1905. Rotarians are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote literacy, encourage peace, and eradicate polio under the motto "Service Above Self." Locally, Lehighton Rotary Club organized in 1921. Today, Rotary International boasts more than 1.2 million members in over 33,000 clubs worldwide.
In welcoming O'Malia, Lehighton Rotary Club President Erica Heery quoted Mohandas K. Gandhi. "'You must be the change you wish to see in the world.' That's what we as Rotarians strive to do."
Heery discussed the various community projects in which Lehighton Rotary Club participates. These include promoting literacy by annually distributingdictionaries to every third grade student in Lehighton and Palmerton Area School Districts in both public and parochial schools – as well as by annually sponsoring anessay contest for high school juniors.
In spring, the club has partnered with Lehighton Area Pool Pals to host their annual "Huge Indoor Yard Sale and Chinese Auction." All proceeds from this event benefit community programs of the two organizations.
Due to its tremendous success this past spring, Lehighton Rotary Club is planning to present an Elvis tribute show as an annual major fund raiser. All proceeds from the show benefit the community programs of the club.
Following with O'Malia's encouragement to "take it to the next level," Lehighton Rotary Club is currently working on new and expanded community projects. The first is the local presentation of "The Final Inch" – the award-winning, powerful 38-minute film about both the legacy of polio in the U.S. and the public health heroes who are courageously fighting to end its brutal reign in the poorest areas of the world.
Just as Lehighton Rotary Club donated and planted many of the trees in the downtown Lehighton parks, the club is currently involved in a project to donate trees to tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri "as a sign of hope."
Also in the "brainstorming" phase are other possible projects – among them a community Easter Egg Hunt.
O'Malia praised and thanked Lehighton Rotary Club for the work that they do. He also has challenges for the club. First and foremost is to increase membership. O'Malia discussed various membership options.
He also urged the club to initiate and sponsor an Interact Club, which provides high school students ages 14 to 18 an opportunity to work together in a world fellowship dedicated to service and international understanding. Interact Clubs are sponsored by a Rotary Club and organized as part of the school's extra-curricular activities.
O'Malia reminded the club of the importance of The Rotary Foundation, which enables Rotarians to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty.
Finally, he encouraged the club to continue to help with PolioPlus. Since 1985, Rotary has made polio eradication its top priority and has contributed $633 million to the effort. Major gains have been made in the global fight against polio. Two drops of the oral polio vaccine cost approximately 66 cents.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has partnered with Rotary International by donating $200 million to this cause. The Gates Foundation challenged Rotarians to match this donation – dollar for dollar. To date, Rotarians have raised approximately $190 million for this campaign. In June, Lehighton Rotary Club presented O'Malia with a check for PolioPlus.
In his closing remarks, O'Malia said, "Let's take it to the next level. We are limited only by our own imaginations."
Joining Rotary Club of Plymouth in 1979, O'Malia boasts of his perfect attendance record for the past 30 years – an impressive feat when considering that Rotary Clubs generally meet once a week. Serving as a Past District Assistant Governor, he has been named Rotarian of the Year and has also received the Distinguished Service Award.
O'Malia was responsible for starting an Interact Club at Wyoming Valley West High School in Plymouth. He is also the founder of the Straight-Up Drug Awareness Program, bringing inmates from Luzerne County Prison to talk with school-age children regarding the perils of drug use and abuse. To date, more than 45,000 students have heard this message.
Rotary Club of Lehighton currently meets Mondays from 7:30to 8:30 a.m. at Beacon 443 Diner / Restaurant. Prospective new members are invited and encouraged to attend.For more information, call610-377-9706, e-mail LehightonRotary@yahoo.com, or visit www.Rotary.org.