One of the areas I really set out to focus on in my Beach neighbourhood portrait was the local spirit of charity and community assistance. One of the organizations that I interviewed, the Pegasus Community Project for Adults with Special Needs, left a deep impression on me. This is a day-time program for adults with developmental disabilities that also runs a local thrift store on Kingston Road to generate funding and to provide practical work experiences for the participants in the program.
Marie Perrotta, the founder and executive director of this organization, explained to me that one organization has been tremendously supportive of her initiative over the last few years: The Toronto Beach Rotary Club. So she connected me with the President, Barbara Dingle, who had also been mentioned to me by Sandra Bussin in connection with the restoration of the Gardener’s Cottage. But more about that project in a little bit.
On a frigid February day Barbara welcomed me to her home and we sat down to chat for a couple of hours. Barbara started off by giving me some general information about the Rotary Club. Rotary International is the oldest service club in the world. It was founded in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, by an attorney by the name of Paul P. Harris who wanted to recreate the friendly spirit of his small town upbringing. The concept spread throughout the United States and by 1921, Rotary Clubs had formed on six continents. A 1943 London Rotary conference promoting international cultural and educational exchanges was part of the inspiration for the formation of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) in 1946, illustrating Rotary International’s impact on a global scale.
The Rotary Club’s principal motto is “Service Above Self”, and its 1.2 million members worldwide in more than 200 countries provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build peace and goodwill in the world. The organization is non-political, non-religious and open to men and women of all cultures, races and creeds. Rotary’s main objective is to serve the community and throughout the world, taking up issues such as children at risk, poverty, hunger, the environment, illiteracy and violence. Youth programs and international exchange opportunities are also supported.
2007 Toronto Beach Rotary Executive: President-Elect Tom Teahen, President Barb Dingle, Treasurer Barry Webster, and World Community Servcie Colin Claxton
Rotary International is organized in local chapters, and the Toronto Beach Rotary Club is a fairly recent addition to the Rotary family. The club was chartered in 1999, originally as an offshoot of the East York Rotary Club which has been in existence for more than 60 years. Barb explained that the Toronto Beach Rotary Club is a breakfast club, and that members meet once a week on Tuesdays nice and early at 7:15 am at the Balmy Beach Club which generously makes their facilities available.
Barb herself got connected with the Rotary Club about 4 years ago when a friend introduced her to the club. About a half a year into her membership she went to approach various retail stores during a fundraising drive, and from her interactions with the merchants she realized the amount of respect and cache that membership in the Rotary Club conveyed. All of a sudden doors started to open easily, and people started to listen to her fundraising proposals.
MP Maria Minna, Rotarians Paris Quinn and Jan Lyall along with three happy children enjoying the Bowl for the Beach Bowl-A-Thon
Barb explains that she wanted to become involved in the community, but
was not sure where to start. A few visits to the Beach Rotary meetings
opened doors to the kind of opportunities she was looking for. Barb says
that the club meets once a week for one hour, not a very huge time
commitment, and added that many people might initially be scared of
committing to volunteer work. Barb feels strongly that an hour a week is
feasible for most of us and clarified that you can get involved as
little or as much as you want in the club’s activities. Time restraints
on our lives change from month to month, year to year. Barb adds that “if you have the desire to give back to your community and to play a small part in
helping humanity on an international level, Rotary Clubs have the
infrastructure to make it happen”.
When she first joined she had no idea what the Rotary Club was all about, and she learned that every Rotary Club world-wide works on two levels: to raise funds for and help local community organizations, and to become involved on a global level to support serious international causes.
On an international level, Rotary Clubs support a broad range of humanitarian, intercultural, and educational programs and activities designed to improve the human condition and advance the organization’s ultimate goal of global understanding and peace. The Toronto Beach Rotary Club’s international initiatives include the removal of landmines, the worldwide eradication of polio and leprosy, as well as AIDS orphans in South Africa.
Clear-A-Landmine raffle winners at the Quigley’s fundraiser