Service Above Self

Rotary Club of Fort Wayne is a model for giving back to the region.
1/5/2018
Tammy Davis
Jeffrey Crane, Zack Kittaka & provided

Nowhere is Rotary International’s motto, “Service Above Self,” more prevalent than at the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne. One of three local chapters, Rotary Club of Fort Wayne pours itself into projects that address Rotary International’s six focus areas: promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education and growing local economies.

Driven by a passion to give back, members meet weekly to learn from and interact with each other. They host speakers who discuss issues affecting the local, regional and global communities. 

“I just love the meetings,” says club member Barb Wachtman. “People are there who really want our city and our world to thrive.” 

Eventually the knowledge gained turns into action, as ideas germinate and project plans take root. 

“We want to make an impact on the community however it is within our capacity to do so,” explains Wachtman.

Since its founding in 1915, Rotary Club of Fort Wayne has quietly made an impact through service projects. The club generates thousands of volunteer hours and raises significant funding each year, though much of it goes unheralded. One of its signature projects, for example, has been the club’s involvement with Washington Elementary School.

In 2004, Rotary Club of Fort Wayne began sending members to the school, where their contributions cover a broad spectrum. They helped establish the Study Connection program in the school, providing volunteers who work one-on-one with students who need tutoring assistance. They also established a school-wide EarlyAct service club for kids, based on the principles of Rotary International. In addition, volunteers have completed several Done-in-a-Day projects, including landscaping, completing an outdoor map and painting lockers. Each year, the club also sponsors the back-to-school-night picnic and provides money to teachers for supplies. Fort Wayne Community Schools hopes to use the program as a model for other schools.

Club member Lori Stinson, who is heavily involved with the Washington Elementary project, explains, “Our initial commitment to the school was five years, but here we are 14 years later. We just weren’t ready to let the school go!”

Earlier this year, Rotary Club of Fort Wayne announced plans to contribute to the city’s Riverfront Development with a more visible project. The club is sponsoring the Water Jet Fountain that will be located on the development’s south plaza, just east of the Compass Pavilion. The $200,000 project not only addresses Rotary’s commitment to water and youth, but it also supports community improvement efforts that will ultimately strengthen the economy.

“When we celebrated the club’s 100th anniversary in 2015, Rotary Club of Fort Wayne sponsored the Centennial Tower on the library campus,” explains club president Tim Gibson. “With the Water Jet Fountain, we wanted to put a stake in the ground for the next one hundred years.”

On a broader scale, a local doctor introduced Rotary Club of Fort Wayne to Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital in India. The hospital, which serves underprivileged children free of cost, needed a cardiac catheterization lab. The club then collaborated with the Rotary Club of Raipur Greater in India. Funds from each club, the northern Indiana Rotary district, and the Jyothi Corp. exceeded $250,000. Together they secured a global grant from the Rotary International Foundation, ultimately raising a total of $447,761 to make the lab a reality.

In spring 2018, Rotary Club of Fort Wayne will sponsor the Career Connections Expo with the city’s other Rotary chapters. The fair aims to connect millennials with local employers, educational institutions, and service organizations in an effort to attract and retain talent in the area. Participants must bring a donated item for one of four selected charities as their admission fee.

“They’ll be able to find contact and connectedness at the event,” says Gibson. “Twenty years ago, financial capital was most important. Today it’s human capital.”

Rotary Club of Fort Wayne’s list of contributions to the community stretches far beyond the confines of a single article; the all-volunteer organization exists simply to serve. “It’s fulfilling,” says Gibson.

“If you want to make yourself happy, make someone else happy,” he says. “Rotary has enriched my life immensely.”

Wachtman adds, “We also have fun together. When you work together in service, you have a bond. And chances are, you’re going to be laughing.” 


Rotary Club of Fort Wayne (Downtown Rotary)

Address: PO Box 11141 Fort Wayne, Indiana 46856

Phone: (260) 267-6540

Website: fortwaynerotary.org

Email: fwrotarysecretary@gmail.com

Years in Business: 103

Products & Services: Rotary International brings together a global network of volunteer leaders who dedicate their time and talent to tackle the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects more than 1.2 million members from more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotarians’ work impacts lives at both the local and international levels. The Rotary Club of Fort Wayne meets at noon on Mondays at Parkview Field in the second floor suite level.

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