A. History of Rotary and the Mobile Club
The Rotary Club of Mobile was founded in 1914, only nine years after the first Rotary club was formed in Chicago, Illinois. As a result, the Mobile Club is one of the oldest Rotary Clubs in Rotary International. Rotary currently has over 33,000 clubs in 200 countries and over 1.2 million members. Rotary is premised on the motto of “Service Above Self.”
The Rotary Club of Mobile currently has 260 members making it one of the largest clubs in the United States. It meets weekly at the Battle House Hotel in downtown Mobile. More information about the club can be found at www.mobilerotary.org or by calling our club secretary at 251-432-2362.
B. International Projects
Since Rotary was founded in 1905, Rotary International has channeled millions of dollars into many notable projects. Polio Plus, launched by Rotary in 1985, is our flagship program to eradicate polio from the planet. By the time polio is eradicated, Rotary club members will have spent over $950 million to immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries. Recognizing our resolve to end this epidemic, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded Rotary a $350 million grant. Before this effort was launched polio crippled 1,000 children a day and there were 350,000 cases reported annually. Today, reported polio cases have dropped 99.8 percent to fewer than 2,000 per year. The disease is no longer endemic in 125 countries, but is now limited to only four: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. More information about Rotary International can be found at www.rotary.org.
B. Rotary Children’s Foundation
Because of the age of the club and the wisdom of its past leadership, our club has a history of supporting several worthy organizations in this area. In the early 1930’s, our club helped establish a specific facility for the care of disabled children by raising $25,000. That facility is now known as the Bedsole-Rotary Rehabilitation Center and is housed as part of the larger Mobile Infirmary Hospital. The Rotary Children’s Foundation (“RCF”) was created early on as a separate charitable organization to own this facility. Because of conservative management and the bequests of numerous Rotarians and other generous families, the RCF currently has in excess of $1,000,000. Each year the RCF distributes almost $100,000 to local charitable organizations such as Goodwill-Easter Seal and others.
Our club also has ongoing projects that are supported year to year by past and present financial contributions of its members. By contributing a dollar for every year of our birthday celebrations, we fund our Rotary Scholarship Fund as well as the Rotary Children’s Foundation. Our Rotary Scholarship Fund currently has over $100,000 and allows the club to award several scholarships from interest earned each year to local students.
C. Special Funds Created
Over time, our club has accumulated funds for other projects as well. In 2005 our club created a Rotary General Fund Grant, financing local one-time brick and mortar projects with the interest generated from these funds. As a result, from the fund principal of over $250,000, annual grants of $10-15,000 have been given in recent years to help build an addition at the Alabama School of Math & Science, to help fund the creation of the Rotary Spinal Rehab Unit at the Mobile Infirmary and to help fund the creation of the Rotary Pediatric Dental Unit at the USA Women & Children’s Hospital.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of our member Neil Johnston, the Rotary Conservation Education Fund (with assets of $50,000) was established in 1990 as well as the Rotary Project CATE Fund, now known as The Project CATE Foundation, Inc. Fund (with assets over $150,000). These organizations have made and continue to make a lasting impact on the environment of our beloved Gulf Coast by raising awareness through teaching and other projects. The Lance Bodden Fund, named in honor of our long-time Sergeant at Arms, has already received contributions of roughly $25,000 from which other grants will be made in the future.
D. Annual Projects Funded
Though the funds explained above make a real difference in many ways, our story does not stop there. With the annual dues paid by our members, at least another $15,000 annually is spent on domestic and international projects. For example, in the past few years we have financed construction of a playground at Mary B. Austin Elementary School, delivered dictionaries to hundreds of students, financed a computer-based literacy program in Mobile and funded another similar program in Guatemala and delivered a container of wheelchairs to disabled people in Honduras.
E. Rotary Sponsored Scholarships
Rotary International provides the world’s largest privately funded international scholarships program. Since this program began in 1947 grants totaling $500 million have been awarded allowing recipients from 70 different countries to study in more than 70 different nations. Roughly 800 scholarships are awarded each year throughout the world. Each year the south Alabama Rotary district awards up to 3 Ambassadorial Scholarships for studies abroad. Each of these scholarships is valued at over $25,000. Our club has been proud to have sponsored several of the winners for studies in France and Spain.
Over the years our members have contributed to our own local scholarship fund which now totals more than $100,000. Our club selects outstanding students from our area for recognition at many of our meetings. These honored students then win the right to compete at the end of the year for two scholarships awarded by our club to those students achieving the highest score on the exam.
F. Rotary Sponsored Youth Programs
Rotary also sponsors the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. Young people from are selected to attend camps and seminars sponsored by RI where leadership training is offered in the context of seminars, teamwork exercises, panel discussions, social events, and inspirational speeches. The program attempts to enhance personal development, leadership and citizenship. Each year our club selects and sponsors up to 10 students from ages 14 to 18 to attend this program.
Interact is a Rotary sponsored youth service club launched in 1962. This program offers secondary school students (15-18) the opportunity to work together on projects for the local community and on those which promote international understanding. The Mobile Club sponsors a Rotaract club at the local school UMS-Wright.
Rotaract is Rotary-sponsored service club for young people from 18-30. It conducts two major service projects each year and emphasizes individual responsibility as a basis for personal success and community involvement. Our club helped launch a Rotaract Club in Mobile in 2009.