PUNTA GORDA — More than 250 Rotarians and guests from Southwest Florida gathered recently to celebrate another successful year of generous giving to projects that help local communities and those in need throughout the world.
The festive “A Night of 1,000 Paul Harris Fellows” was held May 21 at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center in Punta Gorda. A roster of presenters and guest speakers applauded local Rotarians for their work and all the good they do in the world.
A highlight of the evening were videos showing Rotarians at work on many of the local and international projects in District 6960, which was led for the past year by Governor Darryl Keys. Especially noteworthy were efforts to support COVID-19 relief and to address food insecurity in several area counties.
Guest speakers were Brenda Cressey, of Portland, Maine, who in 2019 became the first woman chair of The Rotary Foundation Board of Trustees, and Past District Governor Carl Treleaven, an entrepreneur and Rotary philanthropist who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for Rotary’s worldwide polio eradication effort.
Past District Governor and Event Chair Pam Akins, District Foundation Chair Alfred Current, Grants Chair Richard Hall, District Governor-Elect Andrew Lyman and District Governor Nominee Neil Snyder gave inspiring remarks about The Rotary Foundation.
The event name paid tribute to Paul Harris, a Chicago attorney who founded Rotary in 1905 with three other businessmen. More than 110 years later, Rotary International has grown to 1.2 million members in nearly every country in the world. Rotarians contribute to The Rotary Foundation to become Paul Harris Fellows and help fund meaningful projects to find sustainable solutions for humanitarian challenges.
There are 50 clubs in Rotary District 6960, which covers eight counties, and reaches from Palmetto to Marco Island and inland to Arcadia and Clewiston. They join Rotarians throughout the world to take action to make communities better. They contribute their time, energy and passion to carry out meaningful and sustainable projects that promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water, help mothers and children, support education, grow local economies and protect the environment.
In District 6960, Rotarians have long supported the community through a range of service projects, including Books for Kids promoting literacy and “Josh the Otter,” a program promoting water safety for children. Rotary’s top priority is the global eradication of polio. Rotary launched its polio immunization program, PolioPlus, in 1985 and in 1988 became a leading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Only two cases of wild polio virus have been confirmed worldwide this year. In addition to continuing to vaccinate children against polio, Rotary’s PolioPlus infrastructure was also used to address COVID-19 needs, including testing and contact tracing, hygiene education, and administering vaccines.
Event Chairwoman Pam Akins’ committee included Karen Current, Traci Hamill, Teresa Taft, Kay Yoder, Jane Goble, Joe Timm, Barry Levinson, David Seitz, Darryl Keys, Sherry Penfield, Alfred Current and Christi Womack Villalobos.