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Rotary district governor urges members to accept calling

September 11, 2012
By Matthew Burdette - Director of Print Services , The Inter-Mountain

Real faces. Real people. Real results. That's one of the many maxims District Gov. Greg Smith delivered at the Elkins Rotary meeting Monday as he urged the club to get "back to the basics."

Smith, who recently retired as director of marketing and public affairs for Camden Clark Medical Center in Parkersburg, took over as the District 7530 chief in July. Monday's stop was part of his plan to reach out to the more than 30 Rotary clubs in the northern district, which includes approximately 1,235 Rotarians.

"All district governors have different goals and initiatives," Smith said. "Well, I'm here to tell you, if it's not broke, I'm not going to fix it. Ed Powell (the previous district governor) had a fantastic program in place."

Article Photos

The Inter-Mountain photo by Matthew Burdette
Elkins Rotary Club President Leesa Harris presents District 7530 Gov. Greg Smith with a Rotary flag following Monday’s meeting. The Elkins Rotary Club is donating $200 in Smith’s name to Catholic Charities.

That program not only helped to build membership, but it was the impetus for the district's support of the Mountaineer Food Bank, which received more than $40,000 in donations from District 7530 during the storms that devastated West Virginia in late June.

"When Ed started as district governor, we had 1,141 members," Smith said. "The clubs got together and, with Ed's help, as of July 1, we had 1,209 members. In addition, we have the e-club - we call it the Mountain State Rotary E-Club - and thanks to that, we are up even higher. Our goal is to have 100 e-club members by the end of the year."

Smith, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, stressed the importance of continuing the district's work with the food bank, too, challenging the Elkins club to donate at least $1,000 to either the Mountaineer Food Bank or an equivalent local organization that assists needy community members with purchasing food and prescription medications or paying utility bills.

Another program Smith touted was The Education Alliance's wvementoring plan.

"It's a program that helps students in high school from throughout the state, and it helps partner them with business leaders or other leaders just to discuss what do they want to do, where do they want to go (to college)," Smith said. "It's all done online and only takes about 15 minutes a week."

Smith, who has e-mentored eight students since The Education Alliance started the program, shared a his experiences with the club, challenging the group to find at least two members to participate.

"One of the first years I was e-mentoring, I had a girl from southern West Virginia and she said she was interested in working with animals. She said she would love to be a vet or do something like that. However, she said every time she talked to her parents or family members, the only answer she got was that she would never be able to do that. She said her family told her that the only thing she would ever be able to do was to maybe get married and have babies. Well, I told her don't ever let somebody tell you what you can't do. Pursue what you want to do and something that's going to be your passion."

The most important point Smith stressed, though, was challenging the club to get back to the basics to realize what it is to be a member of Rotary but, more importantly, what it means to be a Rotarian.

"I believe that being a Rotarian is a calling," Smith said. "What other service organization is there where the No. 1 thing you believe in is service above self - in everything you think, say or do? Is it the it truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? That's what makes us different from other service organizations. That's what brings people to become Rotarians."

"We have a tremendous impact on the local community," Smith added. "We need to emphasize that, and that is what we are going to have to do to grow our clubs. We have in each one of our communities, especially this community. If you go out anytime, you can see and watch (potential) Rotarians in action doing all sorts of things to help put service above self. Now is the time to ask them to become a member of Rotary, and in doing that, you already have your Rotarians in action. That's what I mean by getting back to the basics."

Smith also pointed out several upcoming changes to the Rotary's schedule. Currently, district governors and officers are elected in June and take office in July. Typically, the district convention has been held late in the officers' term, thereby making it more difficult for them to enact changes and respond to challenges set forth by Rotary officials. This year, though, the district conference is scheduled for Oct. 12 to 14 at West Virginia University-Parkersburg. An awards dinner then will be held toward the end of the officers' term to recognize work done throughout that year.

"The emphasis is on you," Smith said. "It's all back on who makes up Rotary, and that's the members of Rotary - the true Rotarians. It's folks like you that are sitting in this room who will stand up and accept your calling and become Rotarians and make this a great year, make this a great club and provide great support and service above self in all that we do."

Contact Matt Burdette by email at



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