Innsbrook Rotary earns international recognition

At the White House on Rotary Day, Fred Thompson (far right) accepted the Community Leader Award for the Coal Pit Learning Center service project that the Innsbrook Rotary Club completed. Also pictured are (from left): Innsbrook Rotary member Stephen Beer, Gayle Bynum and husband Jim Bynum, who is the Rotary 7600 District Governor.
The Innsbrook Rotary Club is gaining international acknowledgement after earning one of the foundation’s most distinguished honors, the Presidential Citation Award. The award comes at an exciting time for the club as its membership rate is stronger than ever, consisting of vibrant and accomplished business and professional leaders in the area.

Rotary Clubs started more than 100 years ago and now have 1.2 million members worldwide who volunteer in communities at home and abroad. Their goals are to convey the humanitarian spirit by supporting education and job training, providing clean water, combating hunger and improving health and sanitation, supporting the Rotary motto, a
commitment to “Service Above Self.”

The Innsbrook club received the Presidential Citation Award when former Club President Kay King traveled to Bangkok to accept the high honors. There were more than 35,000 Rotarians present, representing 181 countries to witness the local Rotary Club’s accomplishment as the highest achieving in its size category of 100-plus members.

The Innsbrook Club earned the award as the result of achievements toward membership retention and diversity, regularly having 100 percent member participation in the Rotary Foundation Annual Fund. The new international Rotary President, Sakuji Tanaka, set specific goals for the Rotary clubs around the globe. He wanted to increase funding for the international foundation, while also stimulating membership growth by inducting diverse and younger members.

One of the criteria that had to be met was to have a 100 percent participation of people donating at least $100 to the Rotary Foundation; The Innsbrook Club members each donated $300, tripling the amount of resources raised. Other goals of the award included increasing the membership rate by one new member while maintaining an 85 percent retention rate, due to the high number of rotary clubs that are losing members.

The Innsbrook Rotary Club not only met those goals, it exceeded them, earning the high honor of the President Citation Award as it successfully increased the number of women, younger professionals and people with diverse backgrounds who joined the club. King said she could not be more proud of the club.

“The award has never been packaged like this before,” said King. “It was very clear what he (Tanaka) wanted. We were very fortunate and our club did well in all those areas for a couple years and this year we hit it out of the ballpark.”

Earning the award has sparked an immense drive in the club members to strive to continue their efforts throughout the community. Fred Thompson, one of the club’s original charter members in 1989, believes the award brings recognition to the area for those in the community that have been looking for an organization to join.

“It shows we have an outreach that touches the live of the youth that we focus on and we give anyone that is looking for opportunities to become part of that to do so,” said Thompson.

King remarked, “I think its very inspiring and shows that we are a young and vibrant club that is moving forward. It makes us feel like we could do whatever we want to do.”

The accomplishments for the Innsbrook Club did not end with the prestigious award. Another high point came when Thompson participated in the first-ever Rotary Day at the White House.

Only 10 U.S. Rotary members were chosen to be honored as Champions of Change for their continued volunteer work in their communities. The Rotary International and the U.S. have 10 Rotary zones, and each zone submitted several prospective projects to be recognized as Champions of Change.

Thompson was chosen from among that group. He not only represented Innsbrook Rotary but also District 7600 and was one of the four members chosen who had specific focus on issues that were based in their localities. Thompson was recognized for his driving force and efforts in the expansion of the Coal Pit Learning Center in Western Henrico.

The center is a non-profit organization that provides free preschool programs to children from low income families who would otherwise not receive the benefits of a preschool experience. The center opens up doors to young children in various areas, such as art, music and science, while developing motor and pre-reading skills. It is funded by private donations and grants and primarily serves children from the Lakeside and Glen Allen areas.

“This project isn’t over – now the focus turns to operational needs and there’s always a need for regional and local folks to support Coal Pit,” Thompson said. “It was wonderful to see when the school opened that when the kids came back they were able to see something they could call their school; there was an empowerment that the new classroom brought on.”

The Innsbrook club’s accomplishments have continued as members recently distributed more than $35,000 in charitable donations to 24 local youth-based organizations in Henrico, including The Virginia Home for Boys and Girls, Shady Grove Family YMCA and The READ Center. The club holds service events and fundraisers throughout the year to generate resources to give to charities, participating in about 12-15 different events a week. One of its most successful fundraisers is selling roses by the dozen, which resulted in sales of $21,000, all of which was donated to charities.

The members of the Rotary Club of Innsbrook are not slowing down their efforts anytime soon. They are planning a major event for spring 2013 to produce the first ever Virginia Firefighter Skills Competition and Festival at Short Pump Town Center. The event will serve as a major fundraising opportunity and shed light on the service Henrico firefighters provide for the area. In addition, Rotary members are working on their 25th anniversary community service project, which will take place in 2014.

“We want to do something that significant again,” King said, referring to the club’s recent accomplishments. “We want to do something big.”
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