Service Above Self

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi

The Rotary Club of Palm Springs consists of leaders in the community and in their chosen professions such as education, tourism/hospitality, medicine, real estate, publishing, and business. The members have joined together to perform many hours of community service and to support local projects that favorably impact our community. We are neighbors, community leaders, and global citizens uniting for the common good. Being the President for this Rotary year is such an awesome experience.

It is such a great experience to plan, organize, and work in important projects that benefit the community and that demonstrate “Service Above Self”. Projects for this year include: planning and hosting a “prom” for residents of Angel View Crippled Children’s Foundation; providing dictionaries, atlases, and thesauruses for elementary students; a Christmas Book Giveaway where each student at an elementary school receives two new books; providing money for urgent medical assistance for students with financial need; cleaning the local library; and painting and cleaning projects during the Annual Rotarians at Work Day. Additionally, funds are raised to provide the opportunity for local students to attend a youth leadership camp, sponsoring a speech contest for high school students based on business ethics, hosting a chess tournament for students, and changing batteries in smoke alarms for the elderly. Our members donate food monthly to the Well In the Desert and supports a youth center with backpacks and school supplies. Scholarships for local students have been awarded and grants provided to assist the local senior citizens community center and local musical concert series. There will be Christmas trees downtown and a ‘Rotary Day’ to showcase Rotary to the community.

Our club’s international service includes sponsoring a student in the fourth standard in Oduoro Village, a 6 hour drive from the capital city of Kampala in Uganda. Oduoro Village is home to approximately 4,500 people, more than 1,200 of them children. Due to the remoteness of the village, walking miles for muddy water to drink is an everyday occurrence and the illnesses inherent in drinking it manifests themselves constantly. Just about everything is lacking in this village in the middle of nowhere: medical supplies, educational materials, sanitation, clean water, adequate nutrition. The villagers also need help in learning to grow crops and tend livestock. With these skills, they could eat their products as well as take them to market to sell and generate income.

Another international project for our club this year includes raising funds to eradicate polio. The Rotary Club of Palm Springs and its members are contributing $1,275 as part of Rotary’s 27-year mission to eradicate the crippling childhood disease polio. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will match two-to-one the funds that Rotary raises for polio eradication which means that the Rotary Club of Palm Springs contribution is valued at $3825; for as little as $0.60, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life. The “acts of service” by The Rotary Club of Palm Springs to raise funds for polio will provide vaccinations for approximately 6,375 children.

As a participant in Rotary’s Vocational Training Team in Education and Literacy, I had the opportunity visit India in February, 2014. India’s poor sanitation, mass internal migration and dilapidated public health system made many experts believe it would be the last country to eradicate the disease, if it ever did. It was amazing to be in India and see what positive impact the Rotary Polio campaign has had in the country, and to be there as India celebrated the milestone of being Polio Free. It has been three years since India reported the last case in the country. India reported 150,000 cases of paralytic polio in 1985, and 741 new infections that led to paralysis in 2009. In the following the year, the number fell to double figures before the last case in January 2011.

Also, our club is using our district grant funds to support a dental clinic in rural Honduras. This is a new grant which is awaiting approval.

The Rotary Club of Palm Springs demonstrates its responsibility for giving back to our community! Strong networking and fellowship among Rotarians, together with the local community, exemplifies the humanitarian spirit of Rotary. Recently the official visit by the District Governor for District 5330 to our club was held at our meeting. Following the meeting he posted on the district’s social media page, “Thank you president Thomas Smith for your leadership and changing the culture of your club with your new ideas.” It was great to receive this acknowledgment from the District Governor.

I am honored that I have been selected by Greater Palm Springs Pride as the 2014 Community Grand Marshal. I received the award at the Palm Springs Honor Awards on October 10, 2014 and will lead the parade on November 9. This recognition means a great deal to me since the Community Grand Marshal is recognized for their positive and lasting impact of volunteerism and service in the community. I am being recognized for thirty years of community service, leadership in the community and as an award-winning author.


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