Solving problems, saving lives

Local Rotary clubs contribute to a global goal


Ben Bolstrum, Managing Editor

A rotary is the motion an object makes around the center of another object. With this concept in mind, Rotary International is an organization that revolves around community; comprised of 1.4 million members worldwide that make up approximately 47 million volunteer hours each year and 46,000+ clubs worldwide. Rotary aims to do many things on both a local, national and global level.

In the surrounding area relative to Schoolcraft, there are Rotary Chapters in Northville, Livonia and Plymouth.

Former Director of Major and Planned Giving for the Schoolcraft College Foundation Chris Kelly was a member of the college who was a part of Rotary. 

As the Feb. 2021 issue of the SCII Agenda Newsletter puts it: “Mr. Kelly attended his first Plymouth AM Rotary meeting to meet its members as they fund a yearly SC Foundation student scholarship; and as Mr. Kelly tells it, he was so impressed by the group that he became a member and this June he will become its President.”

Rotary operates via a system known as the Four Way Test, created by Darrel Thompson, which asks the following questions: Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? And will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Dean of Liberal Arts & Sciences Michele Kelly represents Schoolcraft in the Northville club, and has been associated with the group for eight years.

“The Rotary Club of Northville probably has about 60 members, that’s pretty average for clubs around here, we [always] say [the Four Way Test] every time [we meet] and every time we decide to do something as a club, whether it’s a social thing, a service thing or something more. We ask these questions and we say ‘okay, does it matter to our community in this way?’” said Kelly, regarding the Four Way Test. “We’ve done all kinds of really great service things. Locally, we put up little libraries and do huge fundraisers.”

An example of these fundraisers would be the Tour de Ville, which is a benefit bike ride that has been an annual event for nine years that begins and ends at the Living and Learning Enrichment Center, 801 Griswold Street, Northville, MI 48167. Rotary also raises money for charities such as Civic Concern: a food bank in Northville. Each chapter provides benefits for their local community while working to combat issues on a global scale.

“It becomes part of your identity,” said Kelly. “You’re interacting with Rotary every week, and I do it on behalf of Schoolcraft. One of the cool things we did this year was have the Schoolcraft culinary students provide the desserts for a big fundraiser that we did. It was awesome to see so many community members interacting with Schoolcraft that way.”

Rotary is widely known as an organization that worked to stop the spread of, and eventually end polio, an ambitous goal considering the only two diseases that have ever been fully eradicated according to the World Health Organization (WHO) are smallpox and rinderpest. The group is a founding partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) alongside (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the vaccine alliance.

According to the Rotary website, this partnership has resulted in a reduction in polio cases by 99.9 percent since they began an initiative to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979. Since then “Rotary members have contributed more than $2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect nearly 3 billion children in 122 countries from this paralyzing disease. Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by governments to contribute more than $10 billion to the effort.” The site also boasts that $3 is all it takes to fully protect a child from the disease, with 430 million being vaccinated in 2017 throughout 39 countries. Now, polio only persists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but efforts to fully eradicate the disease have not faltered.

Other projects and initiatives worked towards around the world include promoting peace, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies, protecting the environment and providing clean water as well as sanitation and hygiene on top of promoting peace.

“I feel like I could do really anything I wanted through Rotary,” said Kelly. “If I were to present to my club, ‘you know, we really need to spend some time thinking about how we might put resources into the earthquake in Syria.’ For example, my club would say, ‘yes, you’re in charge of that initiative. What can we do to help?’”

On a local level, projects vary, but Kelly explained that soup kitchens as well as park and library clean ups are common occurrences. When the Northville Chapter isn’t organizing these initiatives, they’re hosting lunches, bowling games and other social events that foster fellowship among peers.

“It’s awesome to just read about everybody’s, what people are doing across the world to improve their communities,” said Kelly. “Every community is a little different and there are different kinds of problems. The Detroit Club is very active and they have a different focus than what people in Northville do.”

Rotaract Clubs serve to benefit students at a college level and allow for the ability to get involved with community activism and develop workplace skills. There is no current Rotaract Club functioning at Schoolcraft, which means the position is open for a larger chapter to sponsor.

Membership in Rotary is invitation only, but the website can guide interested parties to chapters that most fit their interests. From there, they will contact the relevant chapter who will in turn reach out through phone or email to discuss that interest before being invited to a meeting.

Beyond all else, Kelly hopes that younger generations see the opportunity available through Rotary and take them wholeheartedly. Whether it be helping the environment, stopping the spread of illness or otherwise contributing to the improvement of a community, membership at this organization has something for anyone and they are always looking for new Rotarians. Those interested in being a positive force for change in both local and global communities alike need not look any further than Rotary.

For more information on Rotary, visit