WHEN the past and present members of Castlebar Rotary Club gather next month to celebrate forty years of community service, the occasion will serve as a milestone of what has been achieved over that four decades.
Countless charities have benefitted from the generosity of Rotary, from the local to the international; and hundreds of thousands in funding has been channelled to worthy causes, very often without fuss or fanfare.
It is an indication of the sense of duty of the Rotarians that, even forty years on, no less than seven of the founding members of the Castlebar club are still active in the club affairs, among them John Kilkelly, the first President; Seamas Cashin, Jim Finan, Joe Mulroy, Pat Murray and John Hanley. And even more remarkable – as if to show that dedication to Rotary is impervious to the passage of time – the current President, John McHugh, also served in the same position all of thirty seven years ago. In addition, it seems the call to community service tends to be passed on from one generation to the next, with more recent holders of the Presidential chain – Niall Taylor, John Horkan, Breda Mulroy and Fiona Byrnes – following in their fathers’ footsteps.
A world-wide service organisation of professional and business men and women (motto – Service above Self), Rotary International was founded in America before spreading worldwide. For many years a men—only organisation, the gender doors were finally thrown open in the late nineties, and which saw the glass ceiling broken in the case of Castlebar with the election of Vivienne Kyne as the first woman President in 2005.
The Rotary movement casts a wide net in pursuit of its aims, not least in the promotion of international friendship and understanding. To that end, Rotary Foundation plays a key role in sponsoring year long scholarships for young students to study abroad, mainly in the US, while shorter term student exchange programmes foster the ideal of world friendship. Rotary has also been active in promoting the idea of Probus clubs, catering for retired professional and business people, the Castlebar branch of which has proved to be extremely successful since its inception yen years ago. Another widely praised feature of Rotary activities is the organisation and preparation of emergency boxes, which are then stored centrally and can be despatched at short notice to areas of natural disaster around the world.
At a more local level, Castlebar Rotary funding has been allocated to hundreds of local charities, from Rock Rose House to the Vincent de Paul Society, Mayo Autism, the Pink Ribbon appeal, Social Services, Trocaire, the Cairde Club, and the Mayo Peace Park. The Rotary Charity Food appeal and the Toy appeal , generously supported by the general public, provide a welcome help to hard pressed local families each year.
One of the most ambitious of the club’s projects finally came to fruition last year with the opening of a new childcare and health facility in a small village in South Africa. Prompted by the devoted work of two Castlebar missionary priests – Fr Michael Brady and Fr John Kilcoyne – Rotary embarked on a scheme to help provide a much needed community centre in the small village of Disake. The project took five years to complete, but the end was reached last year when Joe Mulroy, driving force behind the initiative, led a group to South Africa to formally open the new creche, clinic and classrooms for the people of the township.