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Rutland South Rotary Club: Camaraderie and collaboration that supports educators and students

By Liz DiMarco Weinmann

After a two-year pause, Rutland South Rotary Club’s fundraising raffle has returned, with the grand prize winner getting to choose between $8,500 in cash or a brand-new 18’ Bushwhacker Plus Teardrop Travel Trailer from Dan Kearney’s RV Center, valued at $17,000. Only a limited number of tickets will be sold, so the odds of winning are infinitely better than purchasing Powerball tickets.

More details on that in a bit, but first some important information about the organizations that Rutland South Rotary funds through the raffle.

While all Rotary clubs share a common philanthropic mission of “service above self,” Rutland South Rotary takes that promise several steps further: The bulk of its fundraising activities are focused solely on supporting charitable and educational organizations that serve our region’s youth — which is the primary reason I joined this particular club. In addition, Rutland South Rotary’s members span a breadth of professions and trades, with most members actively engaged in other social service organizations as well.  

“The Rutland community has always come through to support our fundraising events, in large part because of the connection to youth programs,” said David Correll, who has been a Rotarian for 28 years and is Rutland South Rotary’s current president.

“Because of the unparalleled generosity of those who purchase raffle tickets, we have been able to expand opportunities for the youth in our community, to help make their dreams of ‘what I want to be when I grow up’ come true,” Correll added.

The need to support local students — and those who love, and take good care of, them — has never been greater. Rutland South Rotary has contributed this support for more than four decades, first with its scholarship program, which has donated nearly a half million dollars directly to local students, and now through its grants to teachers and other educators.

Given that focus, the funding requests that come to this Rotary club from educators and others who work at youth-based non-profits are typical: books, of course, and various other classroom supplies, furnishings, and technology enhancements.

Typical, that is, until one Thursday morning a few weeks ago, when Ken Nelson, chair of Rutland South Rotary’s grants committee, read off recent funding requests from four local educators.

Nelson is a retired insurance executive whose jolly demeanor, and droll “dad-jokes,” endear him to all his fellow Rotarians. As he recited the first three requests, members voted their resounding approval and continued to guzzle coffee, munch muffins, and compare weekend plans. But when Nelson proceeded to read the fourth and final request, all chummy chat ceased, for what seemed like several long minutes.

In his best radio-host voice, Nelson announced, “And, last but certainly not least, a request from [name withheld for privacy], for $2,000 for a ‘Care Closet,’ to provide clean clothes, socks, shoes, winter gear and snacks.”  The request was from the principal of a local primary-school; her poignant appeal was to help students at her school who do not have access to basic provisions most of us consider essential, especially for children.

Of course, the Rotary members enthusiastically approved the funding request for the “Care Closet,” and the club’s agenda proceeded.

But I, for one, couldn’t stop thinking about that primary-school principal, the hardships she witnesses day in and day out, and the Herculean devotion that propels her to persevere and conquer the obstacles. 

Turns out, she assumed her post less than a year ago, after a decade as principal of another elementary school. Her bio indicates that her experience and expertise, going on 25 years, are in “special education, positive behavior intervention and supports, social-emotional learning and multi-tiered systems of support.”

In practical terms, all are extraordinary strengths for nurturing students from all socioeconomic groups;  but they are crucial for children who have daunting challenges. Not every educator is proficient at dealing with such challenges, regardless of how much formal education they possess. By all accounts, the primary-school principal who requested funds for her “Care Closet” is all that and more.

That principal’s “care closet” is, figuratively, in her very heart and soul — as it is with other educators who persevere beyond the obstacles. They persevere because they must. They ask not for themselves but for the children they love and care for, day in and day out.

As for details I promised regarding the prizes for this year’s fundraising raffle: the trailer weighs 2,300 pounds and is light enough to be towed by just about any vehicle. It is fully self-contained, sleeps 2-4, and contains a bathroom/shower, microwave, stove, refrigerator, and stereo.  (That’s more practical equipment than most studio apartments in Manhattan could ever fit!)

There are also more cash prizes to win, with second prize: $1000, third prize: $500, fourth prize: $400, fifth prize: $300, sixth prize: $200, and seventh prize: $100. Tickets are $100 each, two for $150, or three for $200, and can be purchased from a Rutland South Rotarian or online at: RutlandSouthRotary.org. Drawing is March 17, 2023.

Again, a limited number of tickets will be sold; so the odds of winning are pretty good!

Vermont’s youths are our most valuable resource and our best hope for Vermont’s future. Your contribution could help so many local students believe that “what I want to be when I grow up…” is not just a dream but well within their reach.  

Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA, is principal and owner of Liz DiMarco Weinmann Consulting, L3C, based in Rutland, serving charitable and educational institutions.

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