MOUNT AIRY — History will be made early next month when the president of Rotary International comes to Mount Airy, the first such visit ever by a person holding that post.
John Germ will be at Hampton Inn on Aug. 8 for a special food drive involving both the Mount Airy Rotary and Surry Sunrise Rotary clubs. This city was picked for his stopover from among an 11-division region that includes about 50 clubs in all.
“I think it’s great for Mount Airy to have the international president come here for the first time, in all the years of the Mount Airy Rotary Club,” said Lenise Lynch, this year’s president of the group which has 79 members.
That distinction was confirmed after a check of records for the longtime Rotary organization locally.
“I think it’s amazing — it’s a wonderful thing,” Lynch said, calling the historic visit “a big deal.”
Germ, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he is a Rotarian, heads a worldwide organization with 1.2 million members among more than 33,000 clubs in about 200 countries. Rotary International supports Rotary clubs by coordinating global programs, campaigns and initiatives.
“RUSH”ing to help
The top international official is scheduled to be at Hampton Inn at 11 a.m. on Aug. 8 as part of a special event called “RUSH.” It stands for Rotarians Unite to Stop Hunger, which will involve a joint food drive and fundraising event of the Mount Airy, Surry Sunrise, King, Yadkin Valley and Yadkinville Rotary clubs.
Jeff Boyles is this year’s president of the Surry Sunrise Rotary Club, which has 30 members.
Members of the five Area One groups will be accepting donations of non-perishable food items and monetary contributions, which can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 8 at the inn located at 2029 Rockford St.
“We’ll be in the parking lot,” Lynch said, which will include being available to help unload food donations.
All contributions will be distributed directly to food pantries in Surry, Stokes and Yadkin counties.
The clubs in those counties make up Area One of Rotary District 7690 in North Carolina, which includes the Triad region. Its 11 area divisions cover a geographical territory stretching westward from Yadkin to Caswell counties and south to Montgomery County, also taking in Forsyth County, Greensboro and High Point.
In explaining how Mount Airy was selected for the visit by the Rotary International president, Lynch said the process started after a survey revealed North Carolina’s Triad area ranks number one in the nation in “food insecurity” among the poor.
Rotary groups across the region were encouraged to organize activities to help alleviate that problem, and members in this area subsequently submitted plans for the Mount Airy food drive in August.
“And John Germ chose to come to our event,” Lynch said.
She believes Mount Airy’s nationwide reputation as a friendly city — perhaps fueled by the Mayberry tourism phenomenon — was a key factor in the selection. And while this it is a significant development, Lynch indicated that the focus of the drive is aiding those in need.
Local Rotarians are no strangers to helping to feed the hungry, which has included organizing multiple canned-food and other campaigns each year, but Lynch said the upcoming drive is special and urges the public to participate.
The RUSH initiative that spawned the event was a way to ask Rotarians to commit to help stop hunger in their communities by giving them a way to do so, mirroring the international organization’s emphasis on hands-on service projects.
This also reflects Germ’s priorities for his 2016-17 term as international president — emphasizing service as Rotary’s most powerful draw for a new generation of civic-minded members.
He has been a Rotarian since 1976, serving in many capacities, and as president his theme is “Rotary Serving Humanity” — which local members say will be on display as they gather to battle hunger.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.