Posted by Bob Saline on Sep 13, 2019
When your motto is “service above self,” you may not always be comfortable touting your accomplishments. But a low profile isn’t necessarily a good thing, according to Andrew Rebuck, who just finished a year as president of the Rotary Club of Harrisburg. “Sometimes you just need to stick your chest out and say, ‘We are rockin’, join our club,’” he said.
According to Rebuck, Rotary International touts 1.2 million members, with approximately 32,000 clubs throughout the world. “It was created in Chicago by networkers who wanted to do good,” said Rebuck, adding that one of their first projects was to build public restrooms. The organization’s motto is “service above self.”
The Rotary Club of Harrisburg has roughly 165 members who meet at the Harrisburg Hilton at noon every Monday for one hour to network, plan philanthropic projects and enjoy lunch while learning about what’s transpiring in the community via various guest speakers.
Raising awareness
Rebuck assumed the Harrisburg chapter’s presidency in July of last year.
Over the last 12 months, he used his position as vice president and general manager of Lemoyne-based Lamar Advertising to raise the profile of Rotary and celebrate new members by posting their photos on billboards around the Harrisburg area.
“One of my favorites was the group photo at a meeting that was featured on 31 billboards on the first day of spring with the message ‘Spring into Rotary,’” said Rebuck, who also used billboards to share various volunteer initiatives, like pictures of Rotarians performing tasks such as separating jewelry at Goodwill and sorting produce at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. The billboard initiative didn’t stop there. Rebuck also posted messages that raised awareness about the good that Rotary does on an international level, as well.
Expanding the demographics
Andrew Rebuck, center, is the outgoing president of Rotary Club of Harrisburg. He is being followed by Joyce Libby, right, the incoming president. Addeline Alaniz Edwards, left, is the chapter’s executive administrator. –
In an era when service-club memberships are waning, there is an ongoing effort not only to raise the profile of Rotary, but to also attract new members. According to the Harrisburg chapter’s incoming president Joyce Libby, Rotary is attempting to grow the organization by relaxing some of the rules. “We used to have an attendance policy that required members to show up 80 percent of the time. We no longer require that,” said Libby. Membership dues can also be a deterrent. The Harrisburg Rotary charges $1,000 per year and although that includes what Libby describes as “a very nice lunch” at the Hilton each week, she also wants the public to be aware of a “passport club” option where attendance and dues are minimal and members have the option to attend meetings in areas that are convenient to them.
Still serving
One of the chapter’s more popular annual events, according to Rebuck, is the Pancake Breakfast at Harrisburg High School.
“About 100 Rotarians volunteer to help and the proceeds go right back to the school in support of the student homeless initiatives and needs-based scholarships,” he said. Other local youth programs supported by Rotary are leadership initiatives.
“We invite 30 kids from Harrisburg High, Sci-Tech and Bishop McDevitt and we help them learn how to be philanthropic leaders, to raise money, write a grant and interview nonprofits to decide who will receive their support and cash donation. They raise $2,500 and our Club matches that,” said Libby.
In keeping with the leadership theme, the Harrisburg Rotary Club pays for two students to attend a one-week leadership conference at Messiah each year, where they join in with 60 students from around the Rotary district.
Another local initiative is the youth exchange program. “Every year we sponsor students who travel abroad. They leave not speaking a word of their non-native language and come back fluent due to their immersion into the culture,” said Libby. This year Rotary is sponsoring two incoming students, as well. “The students’ families pay for the tickets and we arrange for housing give them $110 a month to offset expenses,” she said.
A new project that will connect a number of community leaders is the refurbishment of a greenhouse in Reservoir Park. “The aim is to help Harrisburg students learn how to grow healthy food, to provide a resource for neighborhood gardeners and to help the city grow plantings for city parks. The project will partner with the city and the food bank and Rotary will provide the money for raised planters for people with disabilities so they can still participate,” said Libby.
What’s next
As outgoing president, Rebuck intends to continue putting up the occasional billboard message celebrating Rotarians and their accomplishments.
As for Libby, her plans are to build on raising awareness and educating the community and the club. The international theme for her year is ‘Rotary connects the world.’
Rotary International’s initiative is to eradicate polio.
“Today polio is endemic in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are committed to eradicating the disease everywhere and by partnering with the Gates Foundation, each dollar we raise is matched by two additional dollars by the foundation,” said Libby.
During Rebuck’s tenure as president, members raised $5,000 towards the same initiative, so a total of $15,000 went towards the cause. Starting in 2018, the goal is to raise $50 million a year over a three-year period.
“If we don’t eradicate polio in the next 10 years, we could see 200,000 new cases each year, all over the world, including the U.S. Polio is only a plane ride away” said Libby.
Another health crisis that is particularly prevalent in Pennsylvania is Lyme disease. Libby said she would like to explore ways that Rotary can help raise awareness and combat the disease that affects more people in Pennsylvania than residents of any other state.
Rebuck, who joined rotary in 1992, described the year in which he served as president as “the most fun he ever had” and he hopes that by raising awareness, more people will join the club.
Libby, who joined in 2008, said she is looking forward to the year ahead and connecting people and service projects that keep Rotary exciting and the community engaged.
She is also pretty sure motorists will see lots of billboards this year and most likely a “Fall into Rotary” message on the first day of autumn inviting folks to join Rotary.