Rotary Stories 2014-2015

My Rotary Moment – by Greg Powell, Rotary Club of Santa Clarita Sunrise

When Liz Seipel, our president, asked me to give a short talk on my Rotary Moment, I had to think about the one event that really hit me with the power of this organization to serve. When I became club president of Santa Clarita Sunrise Rotary in 1973 I knew little about this power. I believed in the motto of "Service above Self" and the 4-Way Test provided a valuable tool that served me well in business and in family matters.
During my presidency that year there were many Rotary moments. While we were a small club back then, we tackled big things. Like, pancake breakfast fund raisers, Halloween parties for disadvantaged kids, a community Dodger night, and a visit from District Governor Dick O'Linn who told us about our District dam project that was changing lives in rural Mexico- "Give a dam for Rotary".
However, on January 17, 1994, we were given an opportunity to apply our Rotarian principles in our own backyard during a crisis event. An earthquake of major magnitude struck in the early morning hours and our lives were shaken forever. The Valley was rocked to say the least. For days we had no electricity, no water, buildings were shattered, freeways destroyed, schools closed and desperation clouded over the community.
The week after the Northridge earthquake, our small club met and came up with a big plan to help the people who needed it most- those with limited access to food, water and money.
We would raise funds by simply asking other Rotary clubs for assistance and we would provide direct cash grants to those who had the greatest need- the elderly, the poor, the homeless. It was called Project 6.8- after the Richter scale rating of the 1994 quake. Our goal was to raise and distribute $10,000 to those who were in need. We sent out several hundreds of letters to Rotary clubs all over the world asking for their help.
Rotary clubs responded from all over the US and as far away as Japan and Europe, sending checks of $100, $200, $300. We were approaching our goal quickly. At the same time we bought and distributed tons of food, built a temporary shower facility at a local church, and handed out as many grants of $250 to the needy and less fortunate.
But when we had a visiting Rotarian from a club up in the Bay Area come to our meeting, a club we knew nothing about and one that we had no previous relationship with other than believing in the same principle of Service Above Self, the Rotary Moment really hit me when their club president, Red Smith, handed me a fat check for our Project 6.8. We not only met our goal of raising and distributing $10,000- we more than doubled it.
This little Rotary club from Moraga, California, a small town of less than 20,000 people, saw the opportunity to apply the principle of Service Above Self, put on a couple of pancake breakfasts, and raised $5,000 to help our little club help those less fortunate in a community hundreds of miles away. The power of Rotary became apparent. We can and do make a difference for the common good of mankind. Even small clubs can do mighty things!
That was my Rotary Moment. What's yours?
Greg Powell
Past President of the Santa Clarita Sunrise Rotary Club