Aspen Rotary Club on a mission | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Rotary Club on a mission

Charles Agar
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Since the early 1970s, Aspen Rotar­ians have been giving time and money to local causes.

The Aspen Rotary Club raises money for local groups in need, spon­sors scholarships and student ex­change programs, and partners with a worldwide network of humanitarians to help those in the most desperate cor­ners of the globe.

Local club funds come almost exclusively from the annual Ducky Derby race. From there, members dis­perse all monies earned to other groups and programs, said club president Tom Bracewell.

The Ducky Derby raised some $171,418 in 2005, and more than $200,000 in 2007.

The event funnels more than $70,000 to Aspen-area youth groups, who collect a percentage on every $5 duck they sell.

The derby costs around $50,000 to run, mostly for the rental of hundreds of ducks for the race down the Roaring Fork River, Bracewell said.

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The club splits four, $6,000 scholar­ships between the Aspen and Basalt high schools, and sponsors annual awards for teachers. More than $20,000 from the derby goes to a handful of community groups ” mostly start-ups in need of a boost, Bracewell said.

“We try to end up with nothing,” he said.

The Aspen club numbers 100 mem­bers, who pay around $200 in annual dues ” money that funds the day-to-­day operations. And, most members make a volunteer annual contribution of $100 to the international founda­tion.

The Aspen club meets every Thurs­day at the Aspen Meadows for break­fast, and to hear a speaker and meet with various committees.

“We have a motto of ‘service above self,'” Bracewell said, adding that any action by the club has to stand up to a code of ethics called the ” Four-Way Test” of truth ” being fair to all con­cerned, bettering friendships and busi­ness relations, and being beneficial to all concerned.

The club in Aspen has no salaried employees or paid board members, but they do hire a bookkeeper and auditor.

Formed in 1905 by Paul P. Harris, a Chicago attorney who wanted to make a difference, the Rotary Club has grown from a fledgling club to some 1.2 mil­lion members from more than 30,000 clubs in 200 countries, Bracewell said.

The organization opened its mem­bership to women in 1989.

Rotary has no religious or political affiliations. The name “rotary” derives from the early practice of ” rotating” meetings among the various offices of local businesses.

Regional clubs are autonomous, but often rely on separate fundraising foundations ” in Aspen, the Aspen Rotary Club Foundation ” and work in conjunction with the larger interna­tional organization to help support events, scholarships and programs abroad.

The international offices are in Evanston, Ill., and the Aspen club is one of more than 50 groups in southern Colorado (south of I- 70). Adjoining districts meet regularly and cooperate on projects ” one of the greatest strengths of rotary, Bracewell said.

“You can take your club’s money and leverage that,” Bracewell said.

A $2,000 contribution to water and sanitation improvements for a town in Mexico earns 50 cents on the dollar in contributions from the district. And, the international office matches dis­trict money dollar for dollar, adding up to as much as $20,000, Bracewell said.

“That’s powerful. Especially when you take that kind of money to a Third World country,” he added.

The clubs world community-service projects send money and manpower overseas to support anything from lit­eracy programs to bringing much-­needed medical equipment and school supplies to developing countries, Bracewell said.

“Part of the deal is we can put a group together and go down to see these projects,” Bracewell said. He has been to Peru to visit a working project providing wheelchairs to people in need.

In 2006-07, the Aspen Rotary Club annual youth exchange welcomed two international students from Italy and Taiwan, and sent three local students abroad ” to Hungary, Argentina and India, Bracewell said.

Exchange students live with various host families, and money from the club and from the foundation covers the cost of flights and a monthly stipend for kids and their host families.

The Aspen club recently hosted a group of professionals from India for an exchange, and a similar group from southern Colorado will visit India in the spring.

Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.

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