Year-old Kingston club makes impressive strides

KINGSTON — While Rotary International is celebrating its 100th birthday today, one of the organization’s youngest clubs has been working like it’s been around for just as long.

But it’s been less than 18 months since the founding members of the Kingston/North Kitsap Rotary club started meeting, raised about $12,000 and made their mark on the map of community service.

Initiated by the Poulsbo/North Kitsap Rotary chapter, founding members started meeting in November 2003 and the club received its provisional status Jan. 1, 2004. It was officially chartered January 20, 2004 and following the group’s charter night celebration, a club workshop was held to establish its first goals.

Charter president Brad Brown, 2004-2005 president Gene Medina and vice president/president-elect Chuck Atcheson are quite pleased with today’s status of the club, especially in the bank.

“I’m pleasantly surprised how strong we are financially,” Brown said.

The club partnered with several local organizations in its fund-raising efforts so it could immediately start making major contributions to the community. These partnerships included working with the Poulsbo/North Kitsap Rotary on its annual auction and pocketing $6,200 for the club. Members also worked with the Greater Kingston Kiwanis to raise money for the North Kitsap Boys & Girls Club. On its own, the club sold bottled water and found groups and individuals willing to donate to its projects.

So what has all that fund-raising supported? The club has been able to commit resources to the North Kitsap Boys & Girls Club; provide scholarships and college savings bonds for students at Olympic College, North Kitsap High School, Spectrum Community School and Kingston Junior High; donate to the Kingston Food Bank; and help support Rotary members’ effort to work with a Romanian orphans program, just to name a few.

Overall, the three leaders estimate about $12,000 came through the club during its first year.

“It’s incredible; the kind of things that officers then and the officers now have achieved,” Medina said.

The club also reaches out to the international community as Kingston has started to make ties with other Rotary clubs on other continents. Through its work in East Africa, Romania and Zilina, Slovakia, members are realizing how small the global community can be.

Member Abe Young and his wife, Kay, and Brown’s wife, Karen, recently attended a Rotary meeting in Malawi, East Africa and have helped raise money to install electricity in a local school there. Another member, Behzad Mostofi, is working with the Romanian orphans program. The group is also working on establishing a club exchange program with a chapter in Zilina.

While Rotary is well known both locally and internationally, the physical distance between any two clubs doesn’t seem to make any difference.

“We’re a global village,” Chuck said.

“Rotary brings an international flavor to the table,” Brown said, noting that when his wife and the Youngs attended the East Africa Rotary meeting “they were accepted in that club like family.”.

On a local note, the three men believe the club’s presence has been beneficial to the area.

“I think it’s added an energy to the community,” Atcheson said.

The resulting partnerships with the Poulsbo chapter and the Kiwanis have also been positive.

“Dual citizenship, I call it,” Brown said with a chuckle.

As the club enters its second year, it has a busy schedule planned in maintaining its diligent work in giving back to the community: volunteer and initiate more community projects, partner again with the Poulsbo club and Kingston Kiwanis, provide scholarships, sell water bottles and continue its international work. Members would also like to start a young person’s club — Rotaract — at Olympic College and are working with the Northwest College of Art on the club’s North Kitsap Youth Job Center Web site.

They are also going to start Rotary Firesides, an inner Rotary club event, in which members will host desserts and provide an opportunity for members to socialize more than just once a week at the meetings and the occasional event.

While Atcheson has done similar work as a pastor and was a member of the another international civic organization, the Lions, Medina and Brown said they have never been part of a group that has been as powerful as Rotary.

When Medina attended his President Elect Training Seminar prior to his 2004-05 term, he said the spirit and energy of the group he trained with was unbelievable.

“You could just feel it and it’s something that’s way beyond you,” he said.

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