WILMINGTON- The Rotary Club of Deerfield Valley is in its 12th year and is going strong, helping the Deerfield Valley in countless ways. The group, which currently has 44 members, holds itself to a standard set by Rotary International: “Service above self.” Since it was chartered in 2005, the Rotary Club of Deerfield Valley has helped numerous local organizations, families, and students and has taken on international efforts as well.
The Rotary Club of Deerfield Valley comprises members from all walks of life, including banking, financial services, real estate, business owners and entrepreneurs, librarians, and more.
Joe Arnold, who serves as the club’s treasurer, is a retired medical equipment representative. He says the thing that ties the diverse group together is their shared passion for helping others.
“Everybody involved is interested in helping the people that we help out,” says Arnold. “And we really get to help them.”
The club has a list of local organizations that it supports regularly, including Deerfield Valley Community Cares, the Deerfield Valley Pantry, Twice Blessed, the schools in the valley, and the Wings program. It also supports individuals and groups when needs arise, whether it’s help with tuition, medical equipment for Grace Cottage or fundraising assistance for school programs. Recently, the Wardsboro library needed a new sign, and the club helped. The library showed its appreciation by acknowledging the club on the new sign. “They put the Rotary logo on their sign,” says Arnold. “It’s the little cog, and it’s in the bottom righthand side. It’s beautiful.”
The club’s work takes a variety of forms. They fundraise throughout the year, and those funds are dispersed through grants and scholarships. They maintain three community gardens, called “The Gardens of Hope,” which in addition to flora contain small stones with inspirational phrases and dedication messages for those who have battled cancer. The club also helps organizations fundraise, as was the case at their recent “Tubeathon” event at Mount Snow. “We served up lunch - hamburgers hot dogs, sides - and kids raised money for their schools,” says Karen Avery, who is president of the club’s fund board. “We initiate the event so the kids can raise money, and all of that money goes straight to their schools.”
According to Arnold, the kids themselves raised about $6,000 that day. “The kids got pledges for different school activities,” says Arnold. “A trip to Spain, a student who is going to Ecuador, a New York trip for the first- and second-graders, the Wings play, and a couple of others.” Later this month, the club will issue checks for each program that funds were raised for.
The club has a few events, like the Tubeathon, that it participates in or spearheads each year. The club holds a popular blueberry pancake breakfast during the valley’s annual Blueberry Festival, contributes to a dental clinic through the United Way, and holds a Christmas party for local students, who gather in Memorial Hall to make Christmas crafts and enjoy a lunch provided by the club.
The club dedicates 85%-90% of the funds it raises annually to local efforts, and dedicates the other 10%-15% to international endeavors. About five years ago, the club began donating to a small school in South America that needed help paying the electricity bill for its computer lab. Through Rotary International, the club also donates funds to help with the eradication of polio.
The club meets each Wednesday morning for breakfast at West Dover Joe’s. Arnold says every meeting is a special one. Members share highlights of their week and discuss what efforts they’ll help with next. “The number of people who step up to volunteer to do each event is mind-blowing,” says Arnold. “You sit there and say, ‘Wow. It’s going to get done.’”
For Avery, a favorite annual tradition is preparing meal bags for local families at Christmastime. The effort happens in cooperation with the Lions Club and provides families in need a week’s worth of holiday groceries, including fresh fruit and vegetables, turkeys, canned goods, cereal, and pasta. Volunteers gather in the gym of the old high school where bags are stuffed and lined up. “At the end, you look at these rows and rows of bags,” says Avery. “You see the gym and it’s just completely full of bags of food. And then we pack the bags into vehicles and deliver them. I always love doing that right before Christmas.”
Asked what his favorite event or effort has been, Arnold lists quite a few, including the Blueberry Festival breakfast, a fundraising wine auction, and the group’s annual ski equipment fundraising sale. He goes on to describe the club’s efforts in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, when it helped to organize and disperse relief funds that were donated to the valley from across the globe. Several club members were also involved in ground relief efforts after making their way to the old high school building, which was acting as a shelter. “People were coming out of the woodwork to help,” said Arnold. “They’d say, ‘what can we do?’ Next thing you know they’re being assigned to Dot’s to dig mud out of the basement, or being asked to go down to 1836 Norton House and help them. It just went on and on. It was amazing and wonderful.”
Arnold pauses. “So, do I have one particular event that stands out?” he says, pausing again. “No. They’re all so freaking great. They really are.”
However, he admits, taking on the role of resident blueberry each year during the Blueberry Festival Parade, and thus getting to march “all dolled up like a blueberry,” is certainly fun.