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Through the efforts of our Rotary club members and the wonderful volunteers, we strive to maintain a balanced concerted effort for the betterment of the communities in Yakima and around the world.
Rotarians at Work Day is an annual event celebrated by Rotarians all over the world on the last Thursday in April. Each year, clubs identify a hands-on project that all members can participate in to help their local community. Yakima Rotarians mark this day by cleaning up Rotary projects within in our community including the clean-up of Rotary Lake, weeding the flower gardens at Sarg Hubbard Park, and trimming and weeding the Rotary Welcome to Yakima sign.
The very first Operation Harvest took place in 1982. Developed to address the problem of hunger in our community, this one-day community-wide food drive brings together hundreds Rotarians from Yakima Rotary, Yakima Southwest Rotary and Yakima Sunrise Rotary, Interact students, Rotaractors, and community volunteers to collect food to benefit nine local food banks.
A true community wide event, it has grown in scope to include all areas of Yakima including West Valley, East Valley, Naches and Selah. Over the years, cash donations have been added to the effort along with the collection of sundry items and food donations from local food processors and growers. New this year is a business competition. Last year pounds of 46,400 pounds of food were collected, 32,982 pounds of food were sorted at Northwest Harvest, and over $36,000 in cash was donated allowing for an additional 216,000 pounds of food to be purchased.
This year’s Operation Harvest is set for Saturday, October 4th. If you would like more information on Operation Harvest or would like to make a donation please contact us at 452-8332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The major Community Service Project this Rotary year is the purchase and installation of a playground for the children served by the Yakima Union Gospel Mission. Funding is in place from Yakima Rotary and a matching grant from Rotary District 5060. Installation will take place in September 2014.
Also on tap is the construction of a new building for the Yakima Food Bank. With a $20,000 grant from Yakima Rotary and a substantial grant from the Yakima Rotary Trust the current structure located by the SE Community Center has a leaky roof and floors and walls falling down around them. The oldest food bank in Yakima, they have quietly been doing their work for over thirty-three years. It will become the Yakima Rotary Food Bank.
The Rotary Welcome to Yakima Sign became one of the first Rotary projects that showed the power of partnerships. Inspired by Past President Greg Luring who encourage “Rotary Footprints” the idea of a welcoming sign was developed to support the beautification of Yakima. It was a collaborative effort between the City of Yakima, the State Department of Transportation, a local architect by the name of Rod Knipper, all three Yakima Rotary clubs and individual Rotarians. Today it is the first thing that visitors see when they enter our city.
The Rotary Playground at Franklin Park was purchased and installed by Rotarian hands. It became the perfect complement to the Rotary Pavilion spearheaded by Yakima Sunrise Rotary and two Picnic Shelters constructed by Yakima Southwest Rotary. All three projects received matching grants from the Yakima Rotary Trust.
The Yakima Hearing and Speech Center was founded in the 1970’s after a committee of Yakima Rotarians studied the need in our community for a facility to care for individuals with hearing and speech difficulties. Prior to that families of children with communication and hearing impairments in Central Washington had to travel to Seattle for evaluation and treatment services. Rotary continued to supplement the Center’s earnings through the mid 1980’s at which time the facility became self-sustaining. Yakima Rotary renewed its connection to the Center in 2013 with the complete renovation of the reception area done with a Rotary grant and Rotarian volunteers. Patients arrive today with a calm, welcoming environment allowing them to receive services that maximize their ability to communicate, learn and earn a living in our community.
It had been a dream of Adrianne Garner, the manager of the SE Community Center to have a dedicated reading room for the children that use their services both after school and during the summer months. Rotary heard about her dream and jumped in to make it a reality. With the renovation of two rooms into one Rotarians provided the funding and manpower to create a fun, inviting atmosphere for the kids to sit, read books and listen to story time complete with cozy furnishings and hundreds of books for kids of all ages.
Rotarian Verlynn Best at the Yakima Chamber of Commerce was asked if she knew of any organization that could help remodel the waiting room at the Yakima Police Department’s Domestic Violence Unit. She brought it to the attention of Yakima Rotary who said yes! With Rotary funds and volunteer hours from both Rotarians and Police staff, a once cold space was transformed with new paint, area rugs, a play area, warm furnishings, games and toys, and sound proofing from interview rooms.
Yakima Rotarians have participated for many years in Rotaplast. Rotaplast teams, comprised of medical and non-medical Rotary volunteers, travel around the world to perform cleft palate surgeries. Most recently, three club members (Jeannie Tolcacher, Russ Mazzola and Steve Altmayer) traveled to Udaipur, India in 2011. Other local teams have traveled to Guatemala, China and Viet Nam. For more information on Rotaplast International, visit www.rotaplast.org.
Testimonial by Rotarian Soni Chase: The Polio Plus trips are a collaboration of Rotary, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, along with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health. The first year I went we were in the Sodo region of Ethiopia, where the green mountain gardens are terraced, and the altitude was 8000 feet above sea level. The villagers live in straw and mud huts and are subsistence farmers. The bumpy roads are shared by cows, people, goats, cars, trucks, and burro carts. The journey to the town of Sodo took us by Yetaban and Project Mercy. We toured Project Mercy and saw the hospital which was designed by Rod Knipper and financed by Yakima Rotary some years ago. Our first clinic to deliver the bivalent polio vaccine was just a large tree. When we arrived, over 200 children were lined up for vaccinations. When it was my turn to vaccinate, I had dropped the two precious drops in the mouths of a few wiggling children and I looked up to see my next patient. He was a beautiful boy of about three, his father on crutches had one leg twisted into uselessness by Polio. His little boy calmly allowed me to drop the drops into his open mouth and when I looked up at the father, tears running down his face, he bowed his head slightly toward me and said “I thank you”. Of course I was tearing up by then, and realized that the father and I both knew that little boy would not have to endure the ravages of this crippling disease. I will never forget that moment.
The next year we were in Assosa, a small remote village along the border of South Sudan, our destination having been moved and our trip delayed as the W.H.O. communicated with our trip leaders regarding the safety of the war torn areas nearby. In Assosa, rather than gathering at one large clinic, we went from door to door; visiting each home and hut, and vaccinating all children from 6 months of age to 5. A tuk-tuk with a loud speaker drove through town announcing to everyone that we were on the way to deliver the vaccinations. We followed our lists, the health workers had been there before and knew how many children lived in each house. We marked in chalk on the front of the house how many children we had vaccinated and the date. I could see chalk marks from work done the years before. I knew I was a small part of a huge and important army working to free the world from Polio. The villagers were welcoming, happy people and the Health Ministry workers were competent and caring and very organized in their quest to vaccinate every child.
My trips to Africa, the Rotarians I traveled with, and the Ethiopian people changed my life, without a doubt. It is my most sincere hope that in some way I made a difference in their lives as well; a change for good.
The Yakima Rotary Club partnered with two Rotary Clubs in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico several years ago to undertake much needed repairs in an urban orphanage as well as a rural elementary school.
Partnering with the 15-member Industrial Rotary Club of Morelia, Yakima Rotarians repainted several rooms and a portion of the exterior of an orphanage that had been privately run by an amazing woman for many years. Infants found on the streets, young children abandoned by their parents, and other orphans, all found a home in this facility through high school, and many went on to successful professional careers. However, despite help from alumni and other donors, the buildings needed maintenance badly. In addition to the painting, Yakima and Morelia Rotarians repaired ceramic tile, undertook repairs of the playground equipment, installed new steel shelving in the dormitories, and even taught knitting to a group of girls.
Later the same week, the same group of Yakima Rotarians moved on to a project at a rural school with members of Morelia’s Camelinas Rotary Club, which is comprised of approximately 35 professional women. This club had adopted a small school a few miles outside Morelia, and together the Yakima and Morelia Rotarians took on the painting and wiring of a new building, which had been completed only to the extent the walls and roof were in place. The purpose of the building was to provide a kitchen for the school, so the students, who came from some distance each day, could be served a better lunch than had been previously available.
Both projects added significantly to the infrastructure needed to care for and educate economically-disadvantaged children, and provided for the establishment of a continuing relationship between the Rotary Clubs of Yakima and Morelia.