They work quietly but determinedly, without many accolades or awards, but the members of Bellingham Bay Rotary Club have long been making a significant contribution, both at home and abroad.
Raising $80,000 to $100,000 a year, the group dedicates 70 percent of its efforts to the local community. The remainder goes to international projects, such as sponsoring a Student for the Rotary Youth Engaged in Service (YES) trip in July to construct a classroom building for kindergarteners in western Honduras.
“‘YES’ took five students and two adults to a little community near Copan for 10 days,” says Bill Gorman, a longtime Rotary member who participated in the project. “It was so inspiring and engaging to watch these young people as they mixed mortar, carried blocks, immersed themselves in the community, and began to realize what the world is like and why they were there.”
The group created new space of their own for kindergarten kids, and the program, partnering with other Northwest Rotary clubs, also paid for uniforms for all of the students, plus books, stationary supplies and teaching materials.
Recruiting new, younger members is challenging as we’re going through a generational change.
Bill Gorman, Bellingham Bay Rotary Club
At home, the club partners with Squalicum High School to award five scholarships of $1,000 each. The club also sponsors a Rotary student exchange program, in which a student from Bellingham flies abroad for a year and a local host family welcomes a student from overseas, and awarded 13 local organizations grants totaling $17,500 in 2015.
Some of the club’s larger donations in years past have been to the construction of Whatcom Hospice House in Bellingham, the rebuilding of Bellingham Food Bank, and temporary housing for homeless youths for Northwest Youth Services.
Gorman, who served the 108-member club as president in 2011, joined 15 years ago after a close friend recruited him.
“Recruiting new, younger members is challenging as we’re going through a generational change,” he says. “But there’s a lot of fellowship and connection in each club, and being part of a worldwide club with 1.2 million Rotarians, you feel the power of the contributions you can make in one of the world’s oldest nongovernmental organizations.”
Bellingham Bay Rotary Club
Mailing address: Bellingham Bay Rotary Club, P.O. Box 1294, Bellingham, WA 98227
Meetings: Noon Tuesdays, Northwood Hall, 3240 Northwest Ave.