Alexandria Bay Rotary Helps Make a Difference

                By Mary Whiting, Contributing Writer Alexandria Bay

The Alexandria Bay Rotary Club, established in 1938, is part of a network of Rotary Clubs across the United States and 200 countries worldwide, with 33,000 clubs and 1.2 million members, whose mission is to assist the communities in which they serve by identifying the challenges or need and, from there, conduct fundraisers to meet that need. Rotarians are business and professional people in their respective communities. They . are in tune with the issues that their communities confront on a daily basis. The mother or international organization seeks to meet global challenges, such as providing clean water, promoting peace and fighting disease; the Rotary Foundation administers grants to assist Rotarians with these challenges. The local organizations address concerns of poverty, education and other social issues unique to their communities.

Roger Harris, secretary and . treasurer of the Alexandria Bay Rotary, has been a member since 1970. We talked about the history of the Rotary and its members and the club's accomplishments over the years. Today, the Alexandria Bay Rotary Club has 29 active members. The three active members with the longest length of service to the Alexandria Bay club are Dr. Robert Tague, joining in Oct. 1956; . Bud Garlock, Feb. 1962; and Roger Harris, Jan. 1970. All three are past presidents.

Once a week on Wednesday evenings, the Rotarians meet to enjoy programs of local interest, discuss community needs, organize projects for the betterment of the community, assess ongoing projects and prioritize future endeavors. The motto "Service above Self," and its four-way test, "Is it Truth, is it fair to all concerned, will it build goodwill and better friendships, and will it be beneficial to all concerned?" are the guides used by Rotarians.

According to Mr. Harris, Bud Garlock and· Bill Berry, also a Rotarian, have jointly maintained the "Rotary comer," the section of property that abuts the corner of Church and James streets, donated by rotarian lim".Qon.~g;ln. This is home to the community the corner, offering the games for public use for the past several years from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Mr. Harris continued to say that the Rotary plants and maintains the flower beds in this area of the village as well.

Projects completed over the past several years include the cleanup of Cranberry Creek, providing funds towards the purchase of an ice resurfacer for the Alexandria Bay Municipal Ice Arena, donating the clocks for the clock tower at Boldt Castle, renovation of the Alexandria Bay public restrooms at the village dock, purchasing winter survival gear for the Alexandria Bay Fire Department, and defibrillators for the the arena, village police and the fire department.The Rotary has supported the former E. 1. Noble Hospital and present day River Hospital, the Macsherry Library, Hearts for Youth, the Alexandria Bay Figure Skating Club and the Minor Hockey League, to name a few.

Each year, the Rotary donates Christmas food baskets to families in need. Mr. Harris talked about other fundraisers held during the year; such as the annual pizza sale held in May, the River Splash Big Splash and 50/50 cash raffle in the summer, the spaghetti dinner in the fall and the annual candy sale around Thanksgiving. "We hold an annual Christmas dinner for Rotarians and families along with children from Alexandria Central School (29 last year). to join us for dinner and Santa. Each Rotarian adopts one or more children to cover the expense of each child's  dinner and gifts," said Mr. Harris. Other special events benefiting the community are the John Daily Senior Citizen Cruise, held each year in May. The cruise, in memory of former Rotarian John Daily, is free to all seniors and features lunch and a two-and-half-hour cruise. Arbor Day at Alexandria Central is an annual event where the Rotary supplies seedlings to students. The River Hospital Polar Bear Dip, now in its 25th year, is the most recent annual event the Rotary assists with. '[he .BQ!.~ s ~orts J.~e event,.J¥i!h volunteers to assist with the lineup volunteers from the community, such as the building of the Thomson Playground located between Anthony and High streets, a project that the Rotary engineered with the donation .of the land from the Thomson family and the labor of community volunteers. The Rotary, providing materials, and community members, giving of their time and energy, joined forces once again to build the baseball dugouts at Alexandria Central School.

The Rotary collaborates with the Jefferson and St. Lawrence county Rotary Clubs to send children to Dodge Pond, a vacation camp for disabled children located in St. Lawrence County. On the international level, through the district Rotary of Southeastern Ontario and Quebec, Canada and northern New York, the Rotary contributes to disaster relief in purchasing "shelter boxes," which include a tent and kitchen utensils needed to prepare and serve food for a family of up to 10 members. The shelter boxes, which cost $1000, have been sent as a result of hurricanes Katrina in New Orleans and Sandy in New Jersey/Long Island and the earthquake in Haiti.

"We host two joint meetings with our neighboring clubs from across the St. Lawrence each year, along with attending fellowship meetings with local clubs from Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties," said Mr. Harris. He continued to talk. about other endeavors, stating, "This year we started a program in memory of Ted Jones, past president, to collect books -to be shipped to countries in the third world." The program involves the collection of textbooks that are bundled in pallets and shipped to a warehouse, where they are containerized and shipped once again to their final destination.

"On the local level, we award three scholarships at graduation each year from funds set up from three former past presidents: Dr. Frank Gillick, Del Lyman, and David Aitcheson. These are for graduating seniors who will be attending further education in a field specified by the Rotary," said .Mr Harris. T'YQ~ other scholarships, in the -aillouiil: of $100;-are also Scholarships from the foundation to children from 0-9 are awarded through the district addition to Easter es level to a college student furthering be prize baskets, sna~ a college degree in a field of study. "The Alexandria Bay Rotary Club was honored to have Jessica Munna selected from a group of candidates from our district to receive a foundation scholarship in '2013. This was funded through the Rotary Foundation for study abroad of one year. Jessica chose to study in Cape Town, South Africa. Since her year of study, she has set up correspondence exchange with the 4th grade class at Alexandria Central and a school in Cape Town, South Africa, where she is now living,'.' said Roger Harris. .

Mr. Harris addressed other programs sponsored by the Rotary: '''We have held a shadow program with the school to bring students into our members' workplace for half a day to show the students what we do in our daily work environment. Through the foundation, we have hosted group study exchanges through the district level where a group of non-Rotarian business people from another country come to our district for six weeks to travel through the district and visit businesses to take their experiences back to their home country."

"As we neared the end of our . conversation, Mr. Harris proposed a dedication to the Watertown Rotary in saying, "Without the dedication and service above self; the members of the Watertown Rotary Club taking time out of their lives to organize and educate the original 21 founding members of the Alexandria Bay Club, and their dedication and conviction to make this new idea of bringing the Rotary to the Alexandria Bay community, we would not be here. The success generated by our founding members of the community has been passed down to each member of the club over the past 76 years. Rotary has changed a lot since its inception in 1905 in Chicago but the core value of the motto and four-way test still remains the same."

The Alexandria Bay Rotary Club is "in the thick of it," that is, they are in the pulse of the community. Rotary membership is open to individuals who live or work in the Alexandria Bay area. Recruitment of Rhody Spooner, at left and Alexandria Bay Rotary Club president, and new members is a vital component. Roger Harris, secretary and treasurer, are pictured at Bonnie Castle of this organization, which seeks to make the community and the world a better place.
Rhody Spooner and Roger Harris
Polar Bear Dip to benefit River Hospital
Alexandria Bay Rotary Club members Mark Reynolds, left, and Michell Taylor organize Polar Bear Dip jumpers and keep pathways leading from Bonnie Castle· Manor to the water below free of spectators.