Rotary Club Celebrates 50 Years Of Service

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The Payson Rotary Club has been serving the Rim Country for 50 years. Throughout those five decades the men and women have lived the Rotary motto, "Service Above Self."

This motto conveys the humanitarian spirit of the organization's more than 1.2 million members. Strong fellowship among Rotarians and meaningful community and international service projects characterize Rotary worldwide.

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Bob Dalby, left, and Stephanie Jones, select items from the buffet line as other members of the Rotary Club wait their turn in line. The Rotary Club meets each Wednesday at noon.

Al Etz, Ken Gouker and Ronnie McDaniel are the Payson Rotary's longest active members, said current president Tara Keeney. The club has 36 members.

Through a variety of events, the Payson Rotary Club raises money to support numerous organizations and scholarships.

Jay Vagalatos is the club's service projects chairman. The club has a rummage sale each July and last year it raised more than $1,300 for the Rim Country Literacy Program. It gave additional funds to the literacy program with its participation in the RCLP Spelling Bee, in which its members won second place.

Its Tips for Rotarians -- a dinner at Main Street Grille, where the Rotarians are the wait staff -- raised more than $2,500 for an ongoing project to improve the grounds at the Payson Community Kids facility on West Wade. The Rotary International Foundation will be providing some matching money for the project.

The goal of the project is to make the facility's grounds safer for the 60-plus children it serves. It has numerous phases and will require a substantial amount of money from the club, said Bob Dalby, who is the Rotary Foundation chairman and the club's liaison with Rotary International.

Dictionaries are provided to every third-grade student in the Rim Country each year through a partnership between the Payson Rotary Club and the Rim Country Rotary Club (sometimes referred to as the Morning Rotary Club). The Rim Country group was organized out of the Payson group about 10 years ago, Keeney said. The one club had become quite large and some members preferred a morning meeting to a noon meeting, she explained.

The two Rotary groups also work in partnership at the annual Rotary track meet for junior varsity high school athletes.

"It is the only invitational for JV athletes," Vagalatos said. There were 22 schools participating in the 2007 event.

The Payson Rotary Club donates $100 in the name of its speaker of the week to the Gift of Life program. The Gift of Life provides heart surgeries for children whose parents cannot afford them.

At the beginning of each school year, the group hosts a teacher appreciation barbecue. It serves more than 350 educators and their families. The club also presents awards to outstanding teachers. When the school year ends, the Payson Rotary Club gives between $4,000 and $12,000 to high school seniors.

This year, the club is making a gift of $6,000 to the town to purchase a scoreboard for the soccer field at Rumsey Park.

"This is something special we decided to do to mark our 50th anniversary," Keeney said.

The group also helps other Rotary clubs. It recently had members participate in the Rotary Grand Prix, racing go-carts. Their entry fees went to the Superstition Rotary Club.

The Payson Rotary Club also does its part in international outreach.

It is hosting Gabriel Batista, a foreign exchange student from Brazil this year and is sending two Payson students on foreign exchange programs next year. Kady Ward will go to Ecuador and Emily Hill will go to Sweden.

It has hosted several Group Study Exchanges, with teams from Malaysia, Philippines and Brazil. The teams are non-Rotarian professionals led by a Rotary member. They visit as many clubs as possible during their stay, presenting programs about their fields and are given tours of businesses and plants.

The program is designed to create an exchange of vocational and cultural information.

One of the Payson Rotary Club's members led a team to Japan last year and a team from Japan will visit the area this year.

There are several youth branches of Rotary. The Rotary Interact Club, co-sponsored by both the morning and noon clubs, has 82 members. It also sponsors Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, which provides leadership training.

Each Rotary Club provides support to Rotary International projects such as the eradication of polio.

Dalby said polio remains active in only four countries: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

The goal is to raise $1 billion over the next three years, matching a $100 million grant awarded Rotary by the Gates Foundation.

The Payson Rotary Club meets at noon every Wednesday at Tiny's Family Restaurant. Membership is through a sponsorship by the current members.

For more information about joining, Keeney said to contact Lou Adams, the membership chairman, at (928) 474-6070.

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