Rotary club holds first meeting since March

Published 6:26 am Friday, June 5, 2020

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WEST POINT — Rotary International is having its 100th anniversary this year, but 2020 is the first year since its founding that the U.S. was in the grip of a global pandemic. The Great Influenza, or the Spanish Flu, killed an estimated 675,000 Americans and up to 50 million people worldwide between 1918 and 1920. It came in four waves, the first in January 1918, the second and deadliest one starting in August 1918, a third one in 1919 and the final one in January 1920.

Most Rotary Clubs worldwide have been greatly impacted by COVID-19. Most of them haven’t met in many weeks due to the stay-at-home and social distancing efforts put in place to combat the coronavirus.

There were similar restrictions in 1918-20 with the Spanish flu. Things have come full circle with COVID-19.

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During the noon hour on Thursday, the local chapter of Rotary International – the West Point Rotary Club – held its first meeting since March. It took place in the banquet room of the American Smoke House in downtown West Point. Many old friends were heartened to see each other for the first time in ten weeks. Some are experiencing something more than 40 million Americans are dealing with right now — unemployment.

As a precaution against getting the coronavirus, the members wore gloves as they filled their plates with barbecue, potato salad and green beans.

A passing of the gavel ceremony took place during the meeting. Outgoing President Debbie Kelley presented it to the incoming president, Rob Huling.

The club has some catch-up work to do due to the shutdown. It’s a longstanding tradition of the club to award scholarships to the valedictorians and salutatorians from the local high schools. They intend to do that again this year. One annual event that’s sponsored by the West Point Rotary Club will be taking place on time this year. The 38th annual Walt Meadors Valley Haven Invitational Golf Tournament will be taking place on Saturday, Aug. 22 at the Point University Golf Club. Club members Jody Elmore and Craig Brown are working out the details. An estimated 80 golfers took part in the tournament last year. The hope is that a similar number will participate this year.

The club will be celebrating Rotary International’s 100th anniversary at their annual Christmas program in December.

Kelley mentioned to the club that she had received a thank-you letter from Cindy Brooks of EAMC-Lanier Hospital in appreciation of West Point Rotary’s treating hospital and nursing home workers to lunch back in April.

Kelley expressed confidence that Huling would do a good job in his coming year as president.

“He will be awesome,” she said.

Past President Gus Darden told Huling that he should feel free to seek out the advice of Sherry Cody,  the assistant district governor, who was present at Thursday’s meeting. She’s a member of Muscogee Rotary in Columbus.

The first Rotary Club was founded in 1905 by Chicago attorney Paul Harris. Rotary grew rapidly in the U.S., and when it expanded overseas the club’s name was changed to the International Association of Rotary Clubs in 1912 and Rotary International in 1920.

Rotary is today a global network of more than 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders and problem solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change across the globe, in our communities and in ourselves. Over 35,000 clubs worldwide work together to promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene, save mothers and children, support education and grow local economies.