I had been waiting for weeks for the day to come — July 5.
The day after our nation’s birthday, I celebrated a birthday of sorts, myself — induction into the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch.
As the club’s newly inducted president — Ladd Waldo — led me, my sponsor, Laurie Hagberg, and my fellow Rotarians through a brief induction ceremony at the Lakewood Ranch Golf & Country Club, I looked up and into the faces of the members standing before me. And that’s the moment when my nervousness turned to pure excitement.
As I pledged my commitment to the club, its members also pledged their commitment to me. Working alongside this wonderful group of professionals, who have welcomed me with open arms, I will have a chance to help impact our community in a positive way.
And I’m confident the club’s new 2012-2013 board of directors, who were inducted June 28 — Waldo, president; Stella Olinger, vice president; Chris Perkins, president-elect; Toni Milholland, treasurer; Judy Lash, secretary; John Freeman, immediate past president; and Jared Hermann, Cameron Kolesa, Laurie Hagberg, Ronald Beck, Nathan Carr and Gina Jordon — will do an amazing job.
I know, without question, this group is dedicated to helping the community as much as possible.
For those of you who do not know, the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch doles out thousands of dollars to local charities each year through a grant process and has donated more than $1 million to local nonprofits since its inception in 2001. It raises money through a variety of fundraisers, but its biggest is the Suncoast Food & Wine Fest, held each November. Last year’s festival raised more than $100,000.
Lakewood Ranch Rotarians are already busy planning the event, which features live music and cooking demonstrations, samples of more than 300 American and international wines and beers and food from more than 30 local restaurants.
I’ve covered the event numerous times, so it will be neat — and probably overwhelming — this year to help with it and to see how much work really goes on behind the scenes to make it a success.
But, as I have been learning, the Rotary Club’s mission and reach extend much farther than our community.
As Mr. Waldo informed me during our pre-induction ceremony, “Fireside Chat,” the Rotary organization has more than 1.2 million members serving in more than 32,690 clubs worldwide. The club’s efforts have resulted in the eradication of polio in virtually every country and improved the quality of life for individuals in developing countries by providing health care, clean water, food, education and meeting other basic needs, among other contributions.
Additionally, ShelterBox International, a disaster relief charity that delivers emergency shelter and supplies to individuals affected by disasters such as floods and earthquakes, began as a Rotary Club International project and continues to be supported by the organization. The Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch even founded its U.S.-based affiliate, ShelterBox USA, which is headquartered in the Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park.
In fact, Immediate Past President John Freeman left July 9 for Peru with ShelterBox, and I can’t wait to hear his stories upon his return.
As I plunge into involvement with Rotary, I am excited to have a place not only to build friendships and business relationships but, more importantly, to get more involved in helping the community, as I have longed to do for years.
It truly is an honor to be affiliated with an organization, and I am so grateful my fellow Rotarians have given me this opportunity.