Meeting a little later made a big difference for 20-plus Rotary International members this year.
South Whidbey has a new Rotary club: Whidbey Westside. The afternoon club split from the Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island, which meets weekly at 7 a.m., back in January. Five months later, and the club had grown to 25 members and recently initiated six more, effectively doubling the number of Rotarians on the South End.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s the morning club or the evening, it’s all Rotary,” said Jane Helten, one of Whidbey Westside’s founding members and the former Rotary district governor.
The new club meets at 5 p.m. for a cocktail hour rather than breakfast or brunch like the morning club. Instead of a program, Westside has taken on monthly tasks in addition to at least one international project. Some of the new club’s handiwork — a swing set at South Whidbey Elementary School, cleaning and repairing Enso House, passing out water at Choochokam — has already been noticed.
“This club is what we’d call a non-traditional club,” Helten said. “It is very dynamic. It’s an exciting thing as a past district governor to see happen. “It’s a fun club. You come in and you feel welcome.”
Admittedly the new club doesn’t have marquee scholarships like its predecessor. The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island has sponsored Ambassadorial Scholarships, exchange students and Peace Center scholars.
To date, Whidbey Westside has donated nearly $4,000. That money has gone to work at Enso House, hygiene kits for Ryan’s House for Youth, school supplies for a classroom in Tunisia and the school district.
“The reason people join is service,” Helten said. “They want to give.”
As the former district governor, Helten oversaw 58 clubs from Surrey, B.C., to Mukilteo during her one-year term. The position has a process that takes four years, during which she saw three clubs added to the district.
“This club (Whidbey Westside) is far and beyond the others,” she said.
Splitting from the existing South End Rotary was unnerving for the six founding members, all former Rotarians with the morning club of South Whidbey Island.
“There’s always the fear that when you start a new club in the same area as an existing one that you’re drawing from the same well,” Helten said. “We’ve seen cooperation between the two. Both clubs get stronger.”
Growing its own ranks wasn’t enough for Whidbey Westside. The club has a walk-a-thon planned for Nov. 14 at South Whidbey High School. The school’s Whidbey Westside Interact Club — the high school version of Rotary — is using the fundraiser to help pay for the installation of the elementary school’s swing set.