Education-Focused Community Members Sought for Rotary Relaunch

By Lura Jackson

 

After nearly being disbanded in February of this year, the St. Croix Area Calais Rotary Club has officially restarted. The first meeting of the newly reassembled club was held on September 21st at the city building. During the meeting, members discussed the club’s new focus on education and what specific programs may be supported. 

Internationally-speaking, the Rotary is involved in a number of wide-ranging efforts, including providing clean drinking water to communities, polio eradication, youth leadership, peace and conflict resolution, and literacy programs. Locally, the Calais club was first started in 1925 and it has contributed to a number of ongoing programs and initiatives such as the Turkey-a-thon, the building of the stage in Triangle Park, beautifying Main Street, and Sunday Fundays. 

Earlier this year, with participation dwindling due to members being absorbed in outside commitments, the Calais Rotary Club voted to disband. At the time, “We probably did not think about the impact it would have on the district,” Charlie McAlpin said. “It came as a real shock to them.” Later on, McAlpin spoke to the district and realized how difficult it would be to restart the club in the future. 

Recognizing that it would be best to keep the Calais Rotary going, McAlpin began looking for a new focus. “I realized we needed to find something where people have energy and come alongside them, support them with Rotary, and try to rebuild the club that way. That turned out to be education, which I am not at all sorry about, because I have a genetic predisposition to value education.”

McAlpin, who joined the Rotary initially in 1999, supports its continuation in part because of the good work the Calais Rotary has done in the past. However, he said that it was important for the club to refocus on one area of service and its core values to avoid spreading the club and its members too thin. “St Croix Valley and Rotary both have a heritage of people doing amazing things when they work together, so there’s a natural fit there,” McAlpin said. “Those shared values still resonate, but some of the policies and procedures just didn’t work in an era where everybody’s feeling stretched for time and resources.” As an established member of the club, McAlpin is joined in the relaunch efforts by continuing members Joe Cassidy, Bill Cody, and Anne Perry.

While supporting education is a potentially vague concept, the newly reformed Calais Rotary has some specific ideas on what it will be working on initially. The club aims to meet with Calais Elementary School Principal Sue Carter to discuss how it may be able to fill the gap in meeting student hunger. At Calais High School, the BARR program is already being supported by the York Rotary and the Calais Rotary is getting involved to complete a grant that will give the program additional funding. 

“I am a real believer in this program,” McAlpin said about BARR. “It is evidence-based, and there is evidence that it has already started making a difference in the freshman class of last year.” The BARR program provides additional supports to incoming freshmen, which McAlpin explained is particularly helpful for high schools that draw from so many smaller communities.

Since the Calais Rotary is not starting completely fresh, it has some advantages over a new club to pursue its goal. The international charter remains intact, and a member has volunteered to assist with the reinstatement of the state organizational charter. For this year, the club will pay the dues of members. “We haven’t stumbled too badly,” McAlpin said. “We’re picking up with a pretty good place.”

The Calais Rotary will typically be meeting on the third Thursday of every month at 7:30 a.m., although there will be fluctuations based on schedules. The next three meetings will be October 12, November 16, and December 14. The October meeting will be held at the Common Ground Church of God on Germain Street. Any community members with an interest in the Rotary and education are invited to come. The Rotary is non-sectarian and members of any or no faith are welcome. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/pg/CalaisRotary.