Salisbury Rotary marks 75 years of ‘Service Above Self’

From left, Rotarians Randy Chapell, director; Bill Spalding, president; Bill Pond, president nominee; Duane Estes, member and Jerry Baldwin, Paul Harris Fellow, gathered following the April 9 meeting of the Salisbury Rotary Club, which is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year.

Debra A. Aleksinas

Salisbury Rotary marks 75 years of ‘Service Above Self’

SALISBURY — Chartered on Jan. 25, 1949, the Rotary Club of Salisbury is celebrating 75 years of service to the community, a milestone which will be capped by a gala anniversary celebration in the fall and numerous activities throughout 2024.

“We have so much on our plate over the next two to three months, all are exciting, and all are necessary,” club president Bill Spalding told the dozen or so members during the group’s weekly meeting at Noble Horizons on Tuesday, April 9.

“Every event we do will be loaded with Rotarians,” Spalding announced.

The small but dedicated club of about 35 members, which meets at the Noble Horizons Community Room every Tuesday at noon, serves not only Salisbury, but also Falls Village, Canaan, Sharon and Cornwall.

Since its inception, the local club, which is part of Rotary District 7890 comprising 55 clubs in northern Connecticut and western Massachusetts, has sponsored or generously supported a wide range of local and international projects.

Locally, Salisbury Rotary Club has awarded annual scholarships to deserving high school students, and volunteers have rolled up their sleeves to assist local nonprofits, including Chore Services, Salisbury Association, the Canaan Child Care Center and local food banks, among other nonprofits. Members have also supported and participated in myriad community events and activities, including fairs, festivals and parades.

Internationally, Salisbury Rotary, which has a personal connection to Tulum Rotary in Mexico, has helped that club with funding water fountains and computers for schools, assisted with water-related projects in Ecuador and has backed the international effort to eradicate polio worldwide.

“Our biggest shining star is what we’re doing to eradicate polio,” said club director Randy Chapell who with his wife, Fran, also a Rotarian and executive director of the Canaan Child Care Center, have traveled internationally on behalf of the Salisbury club.

He noted that Rotary International, along with its partners, have helped immunize more than 2.5 billion children against polio in 122 countries, reducing polio cases by 99.9 percent worldwide.

“We’re down to 9 to 10 cases in two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Chapell noted.

Jerry Baldwin, a retired banker, joined the Rotary in 1976 and served as the local chapter president from 2005 to 2006.

“I’ve been a Rotarian for 48 years this month,” he proudly revealed.

During that time, he was recognized for his community service as a Paul Harris Fellow, the club’s highest honor, named after the founder of Rotary International.

Over the years, Baldwin had worked tirelessly for the Winter Sports Association, sponsor of annual ski jumps at Satre Hill in Salisbury, and served on numerous community boards and associations.

“I was brought up that you can’t just take, you have to give,” said Baldwin. “This is not work, it is an honor and a pleasure. We love the community, it’s a wonderful place to live, and I just feel the need to give back and help others.”

Baldwin said one of the most significant changes he has seen over the years is the club’s dwindling active membership. Dues-paying members, he noted, stood at 78 when he joined, and it’s about half that now.

Today’s younger generations, he explained, keep very busy with activities, but tend to be less civic minded. “It used to be that the next generation believed in a sense of service.”

Rotarian Duane Estes, who coaches baseball at Salisbury School, noted that membership has been declining since the 1980’s.

“Look around the room, it’s not hard to see that we’re an older club, age-wise. We have the same problem and challenges that other organizations do” in terms of recruiting new blood, he said. “Affordable housing fits into it. There are not as many young people as when we moved out here 24 years ago.”

Club members said one of their main goals is to find new recruits.

“We will try to get the values of the organization out there and explain the reasons it’s important,” said Bill Pond, the club’s president nominee and administrator of Noble Horizons, which donates space to Rotary for its weekly meeting.

Rotary provides services to others, promotes integrity and advances world understanding, goodwill and peace through its fellowship of business, professional and community leaders. Rotarians pledge to uphold the organization’s mantra, “Service Above Self.”

Membership dues, at $150 annually, are the club’s major source of income, supplemented by fundraising events throughout the year.

“It’s not our goal to have a huge savings account. As our account builds, we try to reallocate it back into the community,” Pond explained.

Among upcoming activities is the club’s popular Kentucky Derby Social on Saturday, May 4 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Noble Horizons. The event, one of its largest and most popular fundraisers, was on hiatus for two years due to the pandemic, but as of last year it is back on track, said organizers.

The event, sponsored by more than a dozen individuals and businesses, features a silent and live auction, and attendees are invited to bet on the horses. Tickets are $25 and doors open at 4:30 p.m.

Then, on May 18, Salisbury Rotary will hold a Day of Service during which members and volunteers will perform clean-up and gardening tasks for the Salisbury Association, partnering with volunteers from the Canaan Day Care Center, including parents and children.

Among other events planned for later this year is the Rotary Club’s annual July 4 fireworks display at Lime Rock Park, and its 75th Anniversary Gala in the fall, the dates and details of which have yet to be finalized.

Referring to Salisbury Rotary Club’s milestone anniversary, Spalding noted, “This will be a good year for us. We’re excited and looking forward to it.”

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