When Bob Sanders first heard about the , he didn’t think he had the time to commit to another organization.
But the 66-year-old manager of the local branch found himself drawn in nonetheless.
“I ended up at a meeting, and the next thing I know, I’m a member of the club,” he said. “Not too long after, that I was on the board and in line to become an officer and president.”
It’s the sort of story you might hear commonly at O’Fallon Rotary during a weekday lunch meeting over plates of beef, mashed potatoes and green beans. The organization is essentially a charitable venture, a nonprofit that gives out some $12,000-$15,000 annually to causes that run the gamut from local to international.
Scott Avery, president of the organization, said in the past few weeks alone, money has gone out to support Operation Food Search, the Fort Zumwalt Education Association, Meals on Wheels and a local playground for disabled children.
Rotary also gives out five scholarships to students each year.
“Two years ago, we built a well in Africa,” Avery said. “In a village in Niger, there’s a well with our emblem and O’Fallon, MO on it. Every time they go to get water, they know they are getting water because of this club.”
The local Rotary also contributes to its international parent organization’s efforts to eradicate polio worldwide.
Much of the money is raised through an annual golf tournament that takes in about $9,000 after expenses.
“Then, in March and October, we do what’s called ‘Three Cheers for Charity,’” said Avery, risk reduction officer for the local fire department. “It’s a function where cooks up a bunch of finger foods for us. Then they let us have part of their patio, and we bring people in for $10 a ticket to eat. It includes soda, tea and a cash bar.”
Sanders notes that with the economy the way it is, Rotary plays an especially valuable role.
“There are always groups and individuals in need of certain services that the local governments in this time of budget austerity can’t provide,” he said. “It’s really a way to fill in the cracks, so to speak.”
Rob Purvis, 51, puts it more simply.
“We give back as best we can, and it’s very rewarding,” said the 51-year-old Wentzville resident who runs his own, Internet-based business.
Avery, a five-year veteran of the group, likes to talk about how he became head of the organization.
“I missed a meeting, and I got nominated and elected president,” he said and chuckled.
Avery said he enjoys being a part of the 25-member group for the same reason Purvis does: It allows him to give back.
“Last year, we did a school supplies drive with the Salvation Army where we spent $2,000 on school supplies and backpacks,” he said.
But it’s also about the people.
“It’s a way to get involved in the community and interact with other local businesspeople,” Sanders said. “I like to have fun and do some good in the community.”
Harold “Hogie” Hogarth knows a thing or two about that. The 90-year-old has been a part of Rotary for more than half a century, dating back to when he started up a branch of the organization in California in the early 1950s.
“Service is our business,” said Hogarth, who runs a tapered steel components manufacturing company with his wife Mary.
“We’ve had a small but very successful business, and we wanted to give the community something back,” said the O’Fallon resident. “It’s our life. Rotary has been our life.”
Wile Hogarth represents the perspective of a longtime member, Erin Williams, president and CEO of the , is on the other end of the spectrum as a newer inductee.
“There’s so many great charities and needs out there that it’s good to have a club like this that can concentrate on fundraising in the community to help those different organizations in the place that there’s need,” she said. “That’s where the value is for the entire community.”