On October 21, 2014, our club heard from Dr. Jimmie Williamson, District Governor for our Rotary District 7770. Dr. Williamson has served Rotary in many capacities including as President of the Cheraw Rotary Club. He is both a Paul Harris Fellow and a Benefactor. He received his undergraduate degree from Winthrop and holds a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina. An author of widely used textbooks, he is active in his community having served on the Chesterfield County School Board among other institutions and currently serves as CEO of the South Carolina Technical College System.
Dr. Williamson brought greetings from Rotary International President Gary Huang, who is the first RI President from mainland China. He gave our club a quick lesson in Chinese and we learned that this year’s Rotary theme – Light up Rotary – has its origin in a saying from Confucius that it is better to light a candle than to sit in darkness.
Growing up in Hartsville, SC, Dr. Williamson was exposed to Rotary early on when the Hartsville Rotary Club sponsored paper covers showing the Rotary emblem and the four way test to protect text books used by the Hartsville schools and when his boy scout troop was sponsored by the same club. Clearly having Rotary on the minds of members of the community early in life is an important way of keeping Rotary vibrant and bringing in new members. In that light, one of the first challenges for Rotary this year which Dr. Williamson mentioned was having a “Rotary Day” when local Rotarians can invite prospective members to join Rotarians in serving the community. He thought our planned “day of caring” with United Way was a wonderful opportunity to meet this challenge. He noted that we all have ready opportunities to bring others into the Rotary family by simply bringing in members of our own families such as spouses and children.
The second challenge Dr. Williamson mentioned was polio eradication. Rotary can reach its goal for funding this challenge if each member were to give just $25.00. The Gates Foundation will provide two-for-one matching on all gifts from Rotary which certainly allows the impact of Rotary to be multi-plied. At this time there are three countries in which polio is endemic – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
The third challenge Dr. Williamson spoke of is the CART fund – Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust. Five million Americans have this disease and as shown from Dr. Williamson’s query of our club’s members, at least half of us know someone experiencing this debilitating disease or caring for someone with it. The purpose of the CART fund is to offer grants to researchers so they may jump start their programs in order to obtain funding from the National Institutes of Health. Since 1999 the CART fund has provided $5 million in such grants. He urged the club to support programs on dementia or have a small fund raiser for the CART fund.
Of particular interest to our club was Dr. Williamson’s challenge to assist Rotary’s efforts in support of literacy. Dr. Williamson remarked about how the Rotary Readers program, with which our club is so heavily involved, was started in our district with the Hilton Head Club.
The final challenge on which Dr. Williamson commented was fighting hunger. He noted that 28% of school children live in families where the source of their next meal is not certain. To meet this challenge, the district encourages all clubs to conduct a fund raiser or food drive during the week before Valentine’s Day 2015.
In closing Dr. Williamson praised our club’s efforts stating that he was proud to be in a district with clubs like ours. He noted that District 7770 is at the top in giving in the United States and worldwide. He urged us all to continue to “Light up Rotary.”
Submitted by Alex Dallis, Keyway Committee