The Rotary Club of Parksville AM celebrated its 20th anniversary this Saturday. Hugs, smiles and happy reunions were the theme of the night as current members, charter members, representatives of other Rotary clubs on the Island and former Parksville AM member James Lunney, MP for Nanaimo-Alberni, got together at the Beach Club for a wine and tapas party.
They also observed the milestone in true Rotarian fashion. All of the admission donations collected at the gala were donated to the End Polio Now campaign.
“We’re a small club, but everyone is so committed,” said the club’s current president Diana Matsuda.
The Parksville AM group also spent that morning giving back to the local community. Oct. 25 marked distribution day for the Coats for Kids drive, the club’s longest-running project. “It’s a project that the club really identifies with,” said Matsuda. “It really brings the community together.” According to organizer Cara MacDonald, the group distributed an estimated 100 coats to families this year.
All in all, Parksville AM supports more than a dozen projects and organizations both near and far. Besides the Coats for Kids, Parksville AM is involved on the local level with Beachfest, scholarships at Ballenas Seconday, partnerships with 4-H and literacy programs such as reading buddies.
“I really believe in giving back to the community I live in,” said Bruce Huxtable, the group’s former president. “The Rotary motto is ‘Service above self’ and we really try to live that.”
Of course, the club is also involved with international-reaching organizations such as Disaster Aid Canada and the support of the Rotary Foundation.
Many of the funds donated by Parksville AM are raised at the popular Taste of Oceanside event (which is slated for Apr. 25, 2015). However, the club also donates what Matsuda calls “sweat equity” through physically volunteering time to projects. For example, this September a team of members built a turkey shed at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. That same month another group travelled down to Vincente Guererro, Mexico on their own expense to help build a house with the Live Different organization. In fact, the latter was such a popular and rewarding project that Matsuda said the group is organizing another house build for next year.
While many of Parksville AM’s programs are sustained over many years, the club is not afraid to start new projects. Earlier this month, the club held their first Men’s Health Day to offer free PSA testing. Currently in the works is a new community-based project in partnership with the local Salvation Army and SOS. Set to launch sometime in spring 2015, Matsuda revealed that the three groups plan to offer community cooking classes. “People are so busy,” she said, explaining that the classes will involve learning how to read labels, buy fresh food, cook nutritious meals and preserve food with canning and freezing.
With all these projects, Parksville AM has enough on its plate to keep them busy for another 20 years at least. And it sounds like the members will be there to see it through. “They’ll have to carry me out,” Huxtable said when asked if he plans on continuing with the club. “I think a lot of Rotary members feel that way.”
To learn more about the club and their projects, join them at their regular meeting on Wednesdays at 7 a.m. at the Beach Club.