By Kristen Miller
COKATO, DASSEL, MN - The Cokato Dassel Rotary Club is going on 50 years of service above self, working together to make the world a better place both locally and globally.
The Cokato Dassel Rotary is made up of business and professional leaders working together to make a difference in the lives of others through volunteer and service projects.
According to its web site, Rotary International is the world’s first service club organization and has more than 1.2 million members in 33,000 clubs around the world.
Rotarians work locally, regionally, and internationally on efforts such as combating hunger, improving health and sanitation, providing education opportunities for youth, promoting peace, and eradicating polio all under the motto “Service Above Self.”
Russ Johnson, a 36-year member, said Rotary is a good organization because it extends itself not only locally, but internationally.
Johnson also enjoys the fellowship and camaraderie among the members, he said.
Currently, there are 28 Rotarians, but the organization would like to see that number grow, said chapter president Rob Swendra.
“It’s a great organization to be involved in and give back to the community,” Swendra said, adding the opportunity for business networking, as well.
Newest club member Sandy Fehn joined Rotary in June because she likes to associate with others and wanted to have more participation within the community, she said.
The club meets at noon Thursdays on the lower level of Daniel’s Restaurant in Cokato for lunch and a guest speaker.
Some past speakers have included historical society representatives, Cokato and Dassel mayors, former Miss Minnesota Tiffany Ogle, Bill Sherck from Due North Outdoors and Minnesota Bound, and a US Department of State employee.
On the local level, the Cokato Dassel Rotary takes special initiatives in helping the community’s youth through a number of projects including the STRIVE program for high school students.
STRIVE is a motivational program targeted at high school seniors who want to improve their grades
Three to four Rotarians meet with students once a month throughout the school year to discuss topics such as goal setting and effective study habits.
At the end of the year, Rotary awards $2,000 in scholarships to three STRIVE students who have increased their grade point average the most since the spring of their junior year.
Rotary also hosts a school supplies drive in the fall where community members can donate school supplies for Dassel-Cokato students.
There are also Rotarians who act as mentors and help middle school students with reading.
In the spring, Rotary contributes to promoting bike safety at the elementary level by donating bike helmets to first graders.
The Cokato Dassel Rotary also sponsors two students interested in attending either Camp Enterprise or the World Affairs Seminar.
This month, Dassel-Cokato senior Teegan Ebenhoh will attend Camp Enterprise, a three-day leadership retreat at Camp Courage in Annandale, with activities focusing on the free enterprise system.
This past June, Evan Babekuhl attended the World Affairs Seminar at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI, where she discussed current global issues with peers from around the world.
Fundraising for a cause
Throughout the year, the Cokato Dassel Rotary hosts a variety of fundraising events so it can continue providing financial support for its local and international projects one of which is eradicating polio.
Since 1985, when Rotary International created PolioPlus, an effort to eradicate the crippling disease worldwide, the service organization has contributed $800 million to the cause.
To eradicate polio, which remains in four countries Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan Rotary clubs around the world have been challenged to help raise $200 million by 2012, with a matching $355 million grant through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Rotary International announced Oct. 20 that it was half-way to its goal having raised $100 million this year.
Other local fundraisers include a golf, tournament, rose sales, a wine tasting, and root beer float stand at the Cokato Corn Carnival.
In 2008, the Cokato Dassel Rotary club hosted its final Lutesfisk dinner, ending a 30-year tradition.
How to join Rotary
To join Cokato Dassel Rotary or inquire about the club, contact Rob Swendra at (320) 286-5556.
One can also visit the web site at www.cokatodasselrotary.org.