The Rotary Club works to make a difference here and abroad

The Sweet Carolines walked in the opening ceremony of the Relay for Life in June, co-sponsored by Rotary. Front row, from left to right: Kathy Duys, Shirley Van Der Schueren, Kathy O' Sullivan, Krista Curry, and Jeff Caruthers. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard, in its 21st year of operation, is planning to go public… or at least become more public. Rolfe Wenner, the public service group’s new president elect, wants the general public to have a better idea of what Rotary does.

He thinks there are more groups on the Island that could benefit from the club’s fundraising activities by applying for assistance from Rotary. “We want to recognize businesses that support us but we also want to get the word out about what Rotary really does,” Mr. Wenner, a former public school superintendent, said.

Rotary does pretty well. It raised $54,000 last year, with only about 50 members.

Fundraising, like politics, is often local. On Monday Mr. Wenner announced the group raised over $7,000 in their annual lobster raffle.

The winners were Sandy Roy and Joanne Lachowitz of Vineyard Haven and Bob Merritt and Peter Yoars of Oak Bluffs. First prize was either 50 pounds of lobster or a $500 gift certificate from the Net Result.

Pancake breakfasts, lobster raffles, golf tournaments, and bike rides keep Rotary in the public’s eye, but much of what they do is less visible. In addition to supporting local charities, the club also has also had a hand in helping with health issues internationally, including an effort to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

“One of our members, on his own, has bankrolled several doctors and scientists to find a cure for Alzheimer’s,” said Mr. Wenner. “He came to the club to ask for our support to move it off the level of just being his support. We accepted his proposal as a goal.”

The local chapter helped make a video, Rotary / Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, that was presented at the International Rotarian conference in Thailand this past year. “It highlights MV Rotary as being a catalyst for moving this cause from a local to the international level,” Mr. Wenner said.

The group’s major focus is still the support of Island groups and charities, according to Mr. Wenner. “Most all of the money we raise stays here on the Island,” he said. “We have donated wheelchairs to Peru and helped send a planeload of hospital equipment from the old Martha’s Vineyard Hospital to Peru.”

Rotary annual awards

The Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard celebrated and reviewed their 2011/2012 accomplishments at an awards ceremony held at the Rod & Gun Club in July.

The past year’s fundraising events included Cycle MV, the Tim Conway Show/Cure Alzheimer’s Fund; Relay for Life and several golf tournaments.

Among the groups that received donations were the MV Museum, MV Touchdown Club, Edgartown Council on Aging, Hospice of MV, and Windemere Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.

Rotary also recognized its own members. The “Service Above Self” award was given to Mike McCourt for his work supporting and strengthening the Club during the past year. Mr. McCourt served as a board member, supported the golf tournament with a business sponsorship, and sponsored the Murdick’s Run the Chop Challenge.

The “Distinguished Service” award was given to Deborah Carter, who demonstrated exemplary service to the Club on a consistent basis over a period of years, according to a press release.

The prestigious “Rotarian of the Year” award went to Dick Pratt for making the greatest positive impact on the Club during the past year. Mr. Pratt was recognized for being a founding member of the Club, and always thinking about Rotary, and embracing the Rotary motto “Service Above Self.”

It was noted that Mr. Pratt has attended Rotary meetings for a longer period than anyone else in the Club, and that he has demonstrated leadership with fundraising efforts for the Lobster Raffle and Golf Tournaments. He also developed the Club’s relationship with the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund and extended that relationship to a District, National, and International level.

Officers for the year 2012/13 Rotary year were presented; John Rancourt, president; Rolfe Wenner, president-elect; Arthur Smith, vice president; Christina Baker, secretary; Adam Wilson, treasurer; Mark Luce, sergeant at arms; Dee Lander, past president.

About Rotary

Former president and Rotary activist Bill Brown, an Edgartown insurance agent, said, “one of the great things about Rotary is that it is not a life commitment. You do what you can.”

The Rotary club is open to all persons regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, or political preference. There are 34,282 clubs and over 1.2 million members worldwide.

A small group of businessmen started the first Rotary group in Chicago in 1905. The name was the result of their practice of rotating meetings between their offices. Within a year the group had grown too big and started meeting in a regular meeting spot. In 1922 there were clubs in Canada, Ireland, England, Cuba, India, China among other countries, and the name was changed to Rotary International. By 1925, Rotary had grown to 200 clubs with more than 20,000 members.

Through the 1940s and 50s, some of the European chapters were shut down, first by Nazi Germany and later by communist-bloc nations after the club had been incorrectly associated with the Masons.

The Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard is a group of volunteers who donate their time and talents to make a difference in the community. The Club is actively seeking new members who are invited to call Dee Lander at 508-627-1161 and to attend one of the Club’s lunch meetings. The Club meets at noon every Wednesday at the Ocean View in Oak Bluffs. Their website is Donation requests can be sent to: Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard, c/o Dee Lander, PO Box 1951, Edgartown, MA 02539.

The next Rotary club fundraiser, Cycle MV, will be Sunday, October 14. It is a recreational bicycle ride. There are two routes, a 62-mile ride around the Island and a 31-mile route. The proceeds will benefit Windemere and other Rotary charities. For more information or to register, visit or write to