‘People of action’ help local Rotary Club thrive | Hamer

Mercer Island Rotary Club is 60 years old this year.

These days, when my wife tells me to take off all my clothes, I know why.

In this time of potential water shortages on Mercer Island, she just wants to have a full load in the washing machine. LOL!

Actually, our washing machine has had lots of full loads lately — but not because I’ve been stripping down.

Along with other members of the Rotary Club of Mercer Island (mirotary.org), we’ve been washing, drying, sorting and folding dozens of bags of children’s clothing in the last week or so.

All the clothes were donated by the Stroum Jewish Community Center and the Mercer Island School District from their “lost and found” collections. Our Rotary Club will donate the clothes to local nonprofit organizations that help low-income families with children.

This is the second time Rotary has done this. A few years ago, we collected the SJCC’s Lost and Found and donated everything to Rising Star school in Seattle, where we were part of a tutoring program. Covid ended that, but we still want to help.

Rotary, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is the world’s largest service organization, founded 110 years ago. There are more than 46,000 Rotary clubs all over the world, with a total of 1.4 million members. The Rotary motto is “Service Above Self.” See Rotary.org for more details.

Rotary’s priorities are to promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water, help mothers and children, support education, grow local economies, and protect the environment. Individual clubs and members can propose projects and collaborate with others to make a difference through a network of business, professional and community leaders. “Rotary members believe that we have a shared responsibility to take action on our world’s most persistent issues.” Rotary is non-political, non-partisan, and non-governmental. It seeks common ground to solve problems.

Mercer Island Rotary Club — which is 60 years old this year — meets for lunch on the first and third Tuesday of every month at the MI Community and Events Center and gathers at other times to work on service projects. We have a wide variety of speakers at the meetings, and guests are always welcome. A buffet lunch is available for $25. Socializing starts at noon, the program at 12:30 pm.

Our next meeting will be Tuesday, July 16. See our Facebook page or if you’d like to attend, please email rotarymercerisland@gmail.com.

Our new president is Benson Wong, former mayor of Mercer Island. He helped with the clothing drive, along with past presidents Novelett Cotter and Pat Turner. We have a new set of officers with great plans for the year ahead. Our top three focus areas are: 1) Youth and Education, 2) Housing and Food Security, and 3) Parks and Environment.

Among the projects on our list:

• Building tiny houses for those in need in King County.

• Supporting organizations that provide meals to those in need.

• Promoting accessible and inclusive playgrounds such as Mercerdale, which we helped fund.

• Maintaining Rotary Park and others through regular clean-up projects.

• Awarding an annual $10,000 college scholarship to a Mercer Island High School graduate.

• Giving “Student of the Month” awards to MIHS students.

• Awarding historically over $30,000 in local and international grants every year.

• Planting new trees in forests statewide.

• Overseeing a foam packaging recycling program.

• Holding regular social events to encourage fellowship and recruit new members.

The Rotary Club of Mercer Island for many years sponsored the half marathon run around the island, but that was cancelled due to Covid. A new project is our first pickleball tournament, to be held Aug. 23-25 at Luther Burbank Park’s resurfaced courts. We also may sponsor a golf tournament during summer 2025.

Our club has a Facebook page with regular updates on our activities. In a statement after he became president, Benson Wong said: “The club is a place for developing connections, friendships and community. The club is also a place where you can individually and collectively make a difference not only on the island, but in our local region, and abroad.”

He added: “Our club is composed of ‘people of action’ and the club board and I are committed to listening to club and community members as part of our grant-making process and as we develop opportunities that serve people and that ‘services the soul.’”

In a time when we are all looking for common ground and ways to help our community, nation and the world, Rotary is one of the best ways to do exactly that.

We will have an information table at Summer Celebration in Mercerdale Park on Saturday, July 13. Please stop by to chat.

NOTE: A second Rotary club is forming on Mercer Island that will meet in the late afternoons for those unable to attend lunch meetings. The “Happy Hour Club” will pursue service projects on its own and in collaboration with other clubs. If you are interested, email Novelett Cotter at (ncrikki@gmail.com).

John Hamer is a former Seattle Times editorial writer/columnist and co-founder of the Washington News Council. He was a member of the Seattle #4 Rotary Club for 15 years and switched to the MI Rotary Club 7 years ago. Email him at jhamer46@gmail.com.