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A Brief Introduction to Rotary Club of Historic Brownsville
(Rotary District 5930, Area 9, Club 50602)
We are excited to have you join our club in service to our community. This brief introduction is a short summary of club highlights to help you get to know us. Please know that as you join us, you also join a larger group of people. Rotarians are in most countries around the world. We welcome each other to our home clubs and we are welcomed by other clubs when we travel. Our members have been to meetings in Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. We all share a common mission: “The mission of Rotary International is to provide service to others, promote integrity,and advance world understanding, goodwill and peace, through its fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.”
We were chartered in 1997 by the Sunrise Rotary Club in Brownsville. In our 20+ years as a club we have had as few as 15 members and as many as 35. The core group has been together for decades. We treat each other like family. Don’t let this picking on each other put you off. We promise to pick on you frequently, too.
We use WhatsApp for regular communication. We have the whole group in one chat, but smaller chats are used for different issues. We are fairly paperless. Invoices for dues come through email. We all have an account with Club Runner. (See our club treasurer, Markus Villanueva, for instructions on accessing this app.) Our goal is to grow the size of the club with active members who participate in community activities, fundraising, and club leadership.
Dues are currently $180 per year. About half of the dues go to Rotary International. Approximately a quarter of the money stays at the district level, and the remainder comes back to our club for operating expenses. Dues may be paid all at once by July 1st, the beginning of our fiscal year or half on July 1st and the remainder on January 1st.
We encourage you to jump in with both feet. Ask questions. Offer suggestions. Attend our meetings. Bring a couple of dollars to each meeting, as you will be fined for when your phone rings or you will be asked to share a happy event with us. Attend area and district training and conferences. Once dues are paid, you should receive a name badge for meetings and the monthly publication, Rotarian, from Rotary International.
In order to support the goals of Rotary International and the projects of our club, we hold fundraisers. Early in the club’s history, we sold chicken plates, lots of chicken plates. (Our most excellent BBQ crew included Rene Barrera, Chester Gonzalez, Markus Villanueva, Diego Garza, and Juan Loya. ) These efforts averaged us a net of $1200 per event. Very labor intensive for little return. We have stood in the middle of Sunrise Mall asking shoppers for money for earthquake victims. We have also hosted an art auction and showmanship basketball games, which raised little more money than chicken plates. We have helped park cars for Charro Days with the Sunrise Rotary Club. It was good fellowship with another club but still too much labor for the return.
We now organize an annual bike ride, Ride for Rotary, from Brownsville to South Padre Island. This nets us about $10,000 for community projects and club expenses. The bike ride has been years in the making and has finally taken off as a big community event. It still has room to grow, but we need your help and ideas to do that. Our organizing committee secures the route through multiple municipalities and coordinates with all of the different police departments. Membership on the committee has included Diego Garza, Roberto Valencia, Erick Lucio, Robert Hibyan among others. Note that all members are expected to help on the day of the ride at water stops, sign-in tables, etc.
We are venturing into a partnership with Zonta Club of Brownsville to sponsor a 5K/1M run. Profits will be used for scholarships dedicated to young people wanting to explore different vocations. If chosen, the person receives a paid internship to shadow a local community member. The applicant may be of high school or college age. This is new to our club, and some of the committee members include Estela Chavez-Vasquez, Griselda Munoz, Janet Leal among others.
Community projects:
As with all Rotary Clubs, we treat the entire world as our community. We divide our efforts between international projects with fellow Rotarians around the world and lower Rio Grande Valley projects. Most of the international projects come from members who have travelled to or lived in different countries. We also financially support Rotary International”s projects like Polio Plus. Polio eradication is a multi-agency effort including The United Nations, World Health Organization, Rotary International, the Gates Foundation, and local governments and volunteers. Polio was active in over 100 countries in 1985. It is now only in 3 countries due to this joint effort.
International projects:
1. Deliveries of medical supplies and potable water to colonias in Matamoros, project led by various former club presidents (including but not limited to Eva Woodfin, Markus Villanueva). Sunrise Rotary helped build the clinic. We helped deliver supplies.
2. Eye surgeries in India for two years, project led by retired member, Jai Goel. (He carried the medical supplies but he also did the surgeries!)
3. Various efforts in Guatemala including sutures delivered to opthamologists for cataract surgeries and an international grant where we partnered with clubs from the Netherlands and Guatemala in order to purchase equipment in support of a school for the Intellectually Challenged in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, led by Robert Hibyan.
4. Educational support for three years to Hands to Honduras,a District 5930 project. Our club donated 750 books to the community library of Trujillo, Honduras. We created a mobile library for the more rural schools around Trujillo. We paid for a library building to be built for the mountain town of Champas, Honduras. We tutored public school teachers in math and science. Projects led by Mary Curtis (and her daughter Caitlyn). We currently support Hands to Honduras with financial donations for the community water projects.
5. Some of our other international support was money sent to Japan after the tsunami, cleaning supplies to Mexico after hurricanes, a shelter box to Haiti after the earthquake, a Mexican doll to India in support of a traveling cultural exhibit of international dolls. Most often these are last minute efforts in response to natural disasters.
6. Sponsorship of exchange students, led by Roberto Valencia. Please consider being a host family for one of these students for just 3 months. You will get as much as you give when you become a host family.
Local projects:
7. Co-organized Shots Across Texas to immunize school children. This was in coordination with the Health Department and Sunrise Mall.
8. Cleaned trash from the side of the road through the Highway Adoption program.
9. Painted the foyer of an aging nursing home, led by Mary Curtis.
10. Helped other Rotary clubs in Brownsville pay for the development and publication of a children’s history of coloring book.
11. Established a community recycling center at St. Joseph’s Academy, led by Janet Leal.
12. Sang Christmas carols to elderly in nursing homes; purchased gifts for residents in the home, led by Janet Leal. (We continue this annually even though we cannot sing.)
13. Christmas presents of educational toys for infants of teenage mothers in BISD, led by Janet Leal.
14. Christmas for homeless children at the Ozanam Center, led by Mary Curtis and Janet Leal.
15. Donated books to Cameron Park Community Center, Reach Out and Read Program, CPS local offices, etc. (led by various members including Mary Curtis, Tony Vasquez, Estela Chavez-Vasquez and others)
16. Sent high school students to RYLA annually for over 10 years, led by Roberto Valencia.
17. Established a 4-Way Test Speech Contest for high school students annually for 20 years, led by Mary Curtis. Scholarship opportunity for high school students to learn more about Rotary.
18. Built a new laundry room for Friendship of Women Shelter in partnership with Zonta Club of Brownsville, led by Maribel Guerrero. This project involved a Girl Scout Gold award, Cameron County Juvenile Probation Department labor, and architecture plans from our member, Roberto Valencia.
19. Sponsored Interact Clubs at local high schools, led by Sal Garza, Roberto Valencia and Erick Lucio.
20. Contributed to new sound system for Camille Lightner Playhouse (in joint effort with other local Rotary Clubs), led by Leo Garza with other club presidents. This was a joint project with other clubs and other non-profits also benefited, such as the Moody Clinic.
21. Established Heart Gallery (in its 16th year) to help foster children find forever homes through the adoption process. This is the first step in the adoption awareness plan. It is a traveling, museum-quality exhibit of children in foster care. The Heart Gallery exposes the public to the needs of children who have been in foster care for years. It was established in coordination with State CPS and the Children’s Museum of Brownsville. Led by Mary Curtis. Other Rotary Clubs address the next steps, such as a children’s picnic. All members are expected to attend and participate.
22. Collected used luggage for children in foster care, so they don't travel with their belongings in trash bags, led by Mary Curtis. There is an ongoing need for carry-on sized luggage.
23. Promote learning through Eye Clinic for students in need returning to school in the fall. Free eye exams and glasses for 6 years now. School counselors are consulted on which children should be invited. Led by Tony Vasquez. (He also gives the eye exams and allows us to use his facilities). Most members participate in 2 hour shifts.
24. Feed the homeless at Good Neighbor Settlement House, led by Leo Garza. We are committed to the first Tuesday of every month. This is our first year. Members rotate which month to volunteer. Four members are needed per month from 4:30-6:30 pm.
We all have our favorite projects, especially those that continue from one year to the next (e.g., Ride for Rotary, Heart Gallery, Eye Clinic). These are often not explained well to new members. Please ask the leaders of these projects for more information. Keep in mind that when offering suggestions, the committee chair must balance the guidelines of Rotary International or District 5930 with the ideas of members of the club.
Part of the mission of Rotary is fellowship between members. We meet nearly every week with Thanksgiving and Christmas off. Meetings often include a speaker from the community, although sometimes we hold a business meeting for members to discuss and vote on issues. We also party together at least twice a year. In the summer the meeting is focused on the induction of new officers, but it involves dinner together with families welcomed. In the winter, it is a Christmas party. This is often hosted at a member’s house. (Are you ready to have us all come over?)
We do our best to help the club and each other. Many of us have been officers. For example, Cristi Henson is our current secretary, but early in the club’s history, Mary Curtis was secretary for 7 ½ years and Markus Villanueva has been treasurer for several years, but before him Juan Loya was. More than half of the club members have been president (Roberto Valencia twice!). This is a two year commitment that starts as president-elect and continues, then, into the presidency.
Hopefully, this brief introduction will help you get to know us better as you join us in community service and fellowship. Please join us in our annual activities: Ride for Rotary, Eye Clinic, Heart Gallery, Feeding the Homeless, 4-Way Speech Contest, and Christmas Celebration. We look forward to you joining us and to the possibilities that this new partnership may take us down new and exciting roads together.