Rotary Clubs of the Imperial Valley gathered at the Q casino and resort in Winterhaven this weekend for the centennial celebration of four clubs, El Centro, Calexico, Brawley, and Holtville. Imperial’s club will be celebrating 25 years. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO
WINTERHAVEN — Between the five Rotary Clubs in the Imperial Valley, there are roughly 120 members and a total of 425 years of service intent on bettering their communities and the world.
On Saturday, Jan. 8, Imperial Valley Rotary International kicked off a weekend of celebrations to commemorate the centennial of its Imperial Valley clubs, a celebration meant to highlight their good works that featured Rotary International President Shekhar Mehta of Calcutta, India.
“It’s human instinct, people want to help others,” Mehta said Saturday morning. “There is no point in fighting each other, so let’s work together to fight this common enemy. People come together to do some good in this world.”
Mehta said he is proud to see the amount of people who are a part of Rotary and how it has grown. Rotary is well known for its global efforts to eradicate polio, something of which Mehta said he is particularly proud.
Imperial Valley Rotary Club members met at the Q Casino in Winterhaven over the weekend, with a large dinner planned for Saturday evening where Mehta was to be the keynote speaker.
Calexico, Holtville, El Centro, and Brawley are each celebrating their centennials. Rotary got started in the Imperial Valley in 1921, with each of the four clubs starting within a few years of each other. The fifth club, Imperial’s Imperial Valley Breakfast Rotary, will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
The Rotary clubs of Imperial Valley have done much to get projects off the ground in the community. Most donate funds to scholarships, local programs and organizations, and youth programs.
All five clubs are currently involved in putting together a grant program for migrant students in the Valley that will focus on helping students with math and reading skills. The pilot project will be able to provide case management for migrant students to prepare them for college prep classes in high school.
The project is being put into place right now, said Calexico Rotary member Hortencia Armendariz, who is Rotary District 5340’s assistant governor for Area 12 (Imperial Valley), and in a month in a half recruitment for students in fifth through seventh grades will start. The program will serve 75 students at the beginning, with a goal of serving 750 students.
How Each Club Helps
Holtville Rotary Club helps schools like Meadows Elementary, a rural school between El Centro and Holtville, with funding field trips, such as its annual science trip to Catalina Island. President Ross Daniels said the Holtville club has also helped paint the Holtville library and helped work on the city pool. He added that the club will be hosting its annual pulled pork cook-off on Feb. 5.
“It’s something I grew up with. I’ve always given back to my community,” said Daniels, who is a fourth-generation Rotarian. “I’ve just always felt the need to make my community better.”
Calexico Rotary Club has given backpacks to kids who need them and helped children get cancer care outside of the Valley by donating $6,000. Calexico Rotary has also donated to the Kids ‘N’ Badges program with the Calexico Police Department to purchase gifts for children during Christmastime.
“Giving what you can back to the community in some way is a good feeling overall,” President George Marquez said. “You just feel like you are doing the right thing.”
Brawley Rotary Club President Dillan Faubion said the Brawley club focuses on the high school, including an annual speech competition that helps students with their essay skills.
Imperial’s Imperial Valley Breakfast Rotary Club is behind the spa days that are held at the Imperial Valley Humane Society, where rescue pets are pampered for a day. President Peggy Price added that the Breakfast Rotary Club also helped bring the mobile Vietnam veterans wall to the Imperial Valley.
“It’s Rotary itself, and what Rotary brings in … each year it’s something new, but that’s what keeps it going, and the Rotary International is incredible,” Price said.
El Centro Rotary Club has been involved with the Thousand Smiles program, which does dental work and cleft palate treatments, small neighborhood libraries, and support of the Imperial Valley Food Bank. The El Centro club has also gotten playground equipment for parks in El Centro. President James Garcia recently got to ride in the Rotary Club-sponsored float in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade.
“Part of why we do these things is to support our community where we see a need,” said Susan Giller with El Centro Rotary, “but beyond that we want people to know Rotary exists and is a reason to get involved, be involved in your community, and the broader world.”
Rotary International’s Global Impact
Within the Valley, Holtville and Imperial have seen growth this year, Daniels and Price said. But overall, this has been a time of growth for the larger organization. Rotary International President Mehta said Rotary membership is growing and evolving, saying there has been more interest in “e-clubs,” where members meet via Zoom. Mehta added there has actually been 23,000 net member growth over the last month.
Rotary International’s 46,000 clubs around the world all work toward the betterment of their communities to fight disease, support education, grow local economies, provide clean water and sanitation, save mothers and children, and promote peace.
In addition to Mehta’s keynote address, Saturday’s dinner celebration at the Q saw new members recognized and pinned in front of their peers. Rotarians were also conferred with Paul Harris Fellow status. Named after the founder of Rotary International, Harris Fellows are those who have made large contributions to the Rotary Foundation and its projects locally and internationally in their time as members.
Brawley is the only club that is now 100 percent Paul Harris Fellows.