Ceres Rotarians gathered at Rotary Grove in Smyrna Park last week to celebrate another successful year demonstrating the Rotary motto, "Service Above Self" in action.
The club was chartered in 1977 with Charter President Gus Pallios taking the gavel. Women were welcomed into Rotary 27 years ago and currently the club is comprised of 35 professional men and women who undertake humanitarian projects both locally and abroad.
Many years ago Ceres Rotary donated the funds to establish Rotary Grove. Over the years the trees grew too large and the area unkempt, so in 2005 the club donated $40,000 and, in partnership with the city of Ceres, built shade structures, cleared trees and put in landscaping and irrigation systems. Rotary Grove is reserved for parties and gatherings most weekends throughout the year.
Ceres Rotary has a long history of helping in the community and in Ceres Schools. This year Ceres Rotarians provided a hardbound dictionary/reference book to every third-grader in the Ceres Unified School District. This particular project is a favorite of Rotarians.
"Sometimes the kids tell us it is the first book they have ever owned," said Youth Service Chair Debra Bukko. "We have received thank-you letters from parents who report that the entire family uses the dictionary and it has had a great impact on literacy throughout the family."
The club participates in many school-related projects. This year they provided $15,000 to the Central Valley High School agricultural program to pay for the concrete slab in the new building on the working farm behind Hidahl School.
"We think the Ag program at Ceres Unified is outstanding," said Community Service Chair Emily Carlson. "The students have presented comprehensive programs for our club, gave a guided tour and totally sold us on the project - the kids did - not the teachers or administrators. They were so impressive and confident in their presentations. Our community service projects and youth service projects often overlap - and that's okay with us."
Other projects the club has undertaken this year include:
• The Interview/Portfolio Project. Students at CVHS prepare a resume, solicit letters of recommendation and arrive dressed for success. A panel of Rotarians and other community members interview the students in a mock job interview that is designed to give experience and feed back so students can approach an actual interview with more confidence.
• Prepare and serve a monthly dinner at the Red Shield Center in south Modesto;
• Prepare and serve Thanksgiving Dinner to over 500 families at The Red Shield;
• Provided funds for the kitchen renovation, boxing ring, and library at the Red Shield;
• Held the Rotary Read In where members purchase a book, read it to elementary school students and donate the book to school libraries. This year over 120 readers participated including students from Rotary sponsored Interact Clubs.
• Hold a club speech contest for high school students where the finalists all receive cash awards;
• Provide six scholarships to high school students;
• Send high school juniors to a Rotary leadership camp, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. High achieving students who are already leaders are selected for this four day highly intensive camp;
• Sponsor six Interact Clubs at the high schools and junior high schools. Hosted District Interact Assemblies and Conferences;
• Cooked and served lunch to the volunteers for Love Ceres;
• Donated funds to the Ceres Unified School District Foundation to support teacher mini grants.
• Sponsored the Rotary North/South Football game
• Sponsored baseball and basketball teams.
In addition to the many community and youth projects, Ceres Rotary is known though out the Rotary District and the world for its International Projects. Under the leadership of President Lonny Davis, the club has participated, both financially and hands-on, in 25 wheelchair distributions throughout the world over the past 10 years, receiving 25 matching grants from District 5220 and the Rotary Foundation to accomplish this work. In addition, Ceres Rotary donated $3,000 for relief in the Philippines following the typhoon last year.
The club finances most of these projects through its annual Crab Feed held the last Saturday in February each year.
"Our crab feed is the best anywhere," commented event founder Dave Hosmer. "We serve elegant appetizers before the meal and our cooks are outstanding. We have a live auction and a dessert auction and we usually sell out each year. The success of the crab dinner has gone a long way towards helping us achieve our goals."
"We have favorite projects, but we are always open to supporting the passions of our members," said remarked past Rotary District Governor and Ceres Rotarian Liz Hosmer. "This year we helped new member Joe Swain with his concert benefitting Royal Family Kids Camp, and The Red Cross Hero's breakfast championed by incoming president Rebecca Ciszek."
She called Ceres Rotary Club "a fun, lively, spirited group of people who genuinely want to give back to the community and the world-and have a good time while we're doing it.
Anyone interested in more information about the club may call 485-4553.