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Partick Rodricks, Brian Lindman, Lori Russo, Ross Russo and Josephine Rodricks will work to bring a more healthy lifestyle to Karnataka, India. Courtesy photo.
East County Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012 5 years ago

East Manatee Rotary launches global initiative

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by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

MANATEE COUNTY — Members of the Rotary Club of East Manatee may be few in number, but the group is gearing up to make a big impact halfway around the world.

The Rotary Club is embarking on its first international project in Karnataka, India, where it is working to provide a clean source of water for the people, and also to educate them about basic hygiene.

“The plan is a three-year commitment,” the group’s president, Ross Russo, said, adding the effort will help prevent the spread of disease in the community. “This year is to fact-find and connect with Rotarians in Bangalore and find areas in which to work. We need to make sure the right people are on board.”

Russo left Feb. 2 for a two-week stint in India, where he will be meeting with fellow Rotarians and laying the foundation for his club’s project.

“The program is a sustainable program,” Russo said. “What I saw in India (when I went in 2010) was the immediate and practical help of installing a well. I watched as the water truck rolled into the village and filled the tank with dirty, nasty water and women putting disease-filled water (in their containers).

“Without realizing what I was seeing, it made an impact,” he said.

While in India, Russo will meet with leaders in the Rotary Club of Bangalore Vijayanagar to discuss project details, forming a committee for the project and also working to determine what type of project will be completed, what materials will be used and where it will be installed, he said.

Russo is continuing to lobby for financial support from Rotary clubs throughout Southwest Florida for the cause.

A member of Christ Presbyterian Church, Russo traveled India in May 2010, after church leaders encouraged him to help with a leadership-training conference there.

“I work in construction,” Russo said. “I always figured I would do a mission trip somewhere local — the Caribbean or South America — and I would use my profession.

“But I found myself on a plane ride to India, of all places, and the purpose of our trip was to build church leadership,” he said. “It changed my life.”

During the conference, Russo saw the poverty that consumed the country, as well as the people’s need for clean water and other resources.

The experience, Russo said, gave him a heart for the people of India and making a difference there.
And nearly a year later, as Russo sat in a training seminar to prepare him for leading his Rotary group, discussion turned to “the power of Rotary” and how even a small club such as Russo’s could do something big internationally. When a local Rotary raises $1, the national organization will match $1 for service projects, and Rotary International will match the $2, making a local Rotary’s $1 turn into $4 for an international project.

Russo’s thoughts immediately returned to India, and how clean water and improved hygiene could drastically reduce disease and poor health in rural areas.

Specifically, he remembered a child-dedication ceremony he attended for a 1-year-old girl.

“Her name was Blossom Joy,” Russo said of the child, noting the child mortality rate in India is so high children are not named until they reach 1 year old. “She was being dedicated and received her name that day.”

Russo knew his club could help. With the support of his members and several other clubs, Russo last summer traveled to more Rotary meetings throughout Southwest Florida to pitch the idea and help raise more funds for the project.

During the next six months, Russo will continue trying to raise financial support for the project, and also will begin working with the Rotary Club of Bangalore to finalize project details.

Installation of the well, as well as education on hygiene, will be handled by members of the Bangalore Rotary, Russo said.

For more about the Rotary Club of East Manatee or its international project, visit http://ecorotary.org/project-international.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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