True Difference Makers

In 1905, attorney Paul Harris founded the first Rotary Club in his native Chicago. In the ensuing 100-plus years, the organization has grown to have more than 1.2 million members and numerous clubs worldwide. Rotarians are governed by two mottos: “Service Above Self” and “One Who Profits Most Serves Best.” The Rotary Club of Frisco has been in existence since 1986 and as Frisco has grown exponentially, the local club has evolved to continue meeting the community’s needs. Each Thursday, the Rotary Club of Frisco hosts its weekly luncheon for members and non-members at Crest Infiniti with a guest speaker. “As the Frisco community has grown, so has our club,” said Will Russell, a 13-year Rotarian and the current Frisco club president. “We’ve needed to find larger venues to hold our weekly lunch meetings.”

On November 6, the Rotary Club of Frisco placed American flags in Frisco parks for Veterans Day and then retrieved the flags about a week later. Maybe the club’s most identifiable program right now is the Frisco Rotary Farmer’s Market, which was started by the Frisco Noon Lions Club in 2007 and is now managed by the Frisco Rotary Club. The market allows consumers to have access to locally grown, farm-fresh produce, enables farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers and cultivate consumer loyalty with the farmers who grow the produce.

In addition to making a local impact, the Rotary Club gives back financially as well. “Our administration costs are about four percent. We’re one of the most efficient charitable organizations out there,” explained Thomas Rush, Rotary Club of Frisco foundation coordinator. The low administrative costs allowed Rotary International to give out more than 1,400 global grants over the past year, totaling $98 billion.

Mr. Russell stated that the Rotary Club’s base is “solid and will remain so as long as we remember that we are here to provide service to others, promote integrity and advance world understanding, goodwill and peace.” Rotary Clubs around the world honor this belief with Rotary’s PolioPlus Program. Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a paralyzing and potentially deadly infectious disease that most commonly affects children under the age of five. The virus spreads from person to person, typically through contaminated water. Since 1979, Rotary International has been fighting the good fight to eradicate polio from the planet. The good news is that those efforts have been incredibly fruitful and are now near the finish line with just two nations, Afghanistan and Pakistan, remaining before polio is completely vanquished, making it only the second human disease eradicated from the world, the first being smallpox, which was officially eradicated in 1980 by the World Health Organization. But it’s crucial to continue working to keep other countries polio-free. If all eradication efforts stopped today, within 10 years polio could paralyze as many as 200,000 children each year.

Mr. Rush spoke about the Rotary Club PolioPlus Program at an October luncheon, expressing how ready Rotary International is to eradicate polio and move on to combat another disease. “I don’t believe that Rotary intended to spend over 35 years fighting to wipe polio off the face of the Earth,” Mr. Rush said. “Originally, they thought it could be done in 10 years. Then 10 became 15, then 20 and now 35 years later we’re still trying to destroy polio. Rotary has learned through time there are many obstacles to getting this project done.”

To date, Rotary International has spent $1.7 billion to eliminate polio. Its efforts have kept 19 million people who would have been paralyzed walking and kept 1.5 million people alive who otherwise would have died. The effort to eradicate this debilitating disease has saved over $27 billion in health care costs since 1988 and is expected to save $14 billion more by 2050. “One of the missions of Rotary is to eliminate or reduce human suffering around the world, especially in small children,” Mr. Rush said. “We, as Rotarians, have an opportunity to step up.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website states that the polio vaccine was first available in the United States in 1955 and declared polio-free in 1979. The inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) has been administered in the United States since 2000, while the oral polio vaccine (OPV) is given around the world. “It was a huge victory when we could claim that Africa was polio-free, Nigeria being the last nation to overcome this horrible disease,” Mr. Rush stated. “Then we saw India; India’s been polio-free for six years.” Mr. Rush then employed a cliché familiar to sports fans, that the PolioPlus Program is on the five-yard line and about to push into the end zone by eliminating polio worldwide, which will of course allow Rotary International to redirect its efforts elsewhere. “We want to move on to something else. We want to do something new and different,” shared Mr. Rush. “The next disease that Rotary wants to take on is tuberculosis. That’s another very bad disease that needs to be dealt with.”

he process for prospective new members of the Rotary Club of Frisco is rather simple. Prospective members are asked to attend at least three club meetings either in person or virtually. Attending meetings allows potential members to meet community leaders and citizens in the club and allow Rotarians to get to know these prospective members. The next step is to complete an application and pay an application fee. After an interview and orientation session with the membership committee, the membership application is then submitted to the club directors and then presented to all club members. Should the prospective member be approved, he or she would then be installed at a regularly scheduled meeting by club officers. 

Local citizens can also support the Rotary Club’s PolioPlus program by making monetary donations. The donations help Rotary and its partners reach every child with the polio vaccine. Thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, local contributions will be tripled, getting the Rotary Club even closer to a polio-free world.

Rotary not only makes a positive impact in the communities it serves and around the world but its members also better themselves by serving. “I see Rotary as being not only integral to the local and global communities but individually as well,” Mr. Russell stated. “I’ve received leadership training and have sharpened my leadership skills, all while serving my community side-by-side with some of the best individuals in my community. Rotary is not a networking group but a service organization. It is a group of local business and community leaders who seek out community needs and have fun working together to meet those needs. By partnering with the different clubs around the world, we make a difference and we all strive to make a positive impact. I’m proud to be a Rotarian in Frisco!”