Carrie Fenn

Not long ago, Melissa O’Brien wrote about having breakfast with the Charlotte Shelburne Hinesburg (CSH) Rotary. She told of the laughter, the kindness, the attentiveness—all true. Wednesday morning Rotary meetings are a hump-day bright spot during what can often feel like a dark week.

I joined the CSH Rotary last year at the invitation of John Hammer, former Charlotter and current resident of Shelburne. If you know John, you’ll agree he may be one of the most delightful people on our planet—smart, energetic, interesting and a true lover of life. John called me every Tuesday evening for about two months, reminding me about the next day’s Rotary meeting, until finally, out of guilt for his dedication, I showed up. And I’m so glad I did.

Last week, I managed to make it to a meeting after a long lapse, and just being in that room for an hour reminded me why I joined. Hands for Honduras (an annual service trip organized by super woman Linda Gilbert), tackling the opioid crisis, fundraising for community groups, putting together toiletry bags for kids in foster care or building a shed for the Charlotte beach attendants—this is how Rotarians spend their free time. This past meeting was a debrief on the Pies for Breakfast outreach event, held recently at Shelburne Vineyards, where Rotary volunteers served dozens of pies to hungry community members to spread the word on who and what is Rotary.

Rotary reminds us that we are not islands, and we start each meeting with the Four Way Test, adopted by Rotary in 1943:

“Of the things we think, say or do:
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build good will and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

The Four Way Test helps to guide Rotarians in their personal and professional lives and reminds us to be our best selves.

When you think of Rotary, you might think of a bunch of old guys sitting around grumbling. And yeah, there’s a bit of that (good-natured grumbling, I am quick to add), but Rotarians, men and women, run the age gamut. Rotarians hail from many different walks and stages of life. You’ll find Republicans, Democrats and probably a few libertarians, doctors, professors, real estate professionals. Every meeting, we each plunk a dollar or two in a fish net, offering up something that happened during the week that made us happy: visits from grandkids, lunch with an old friend, shout out to a fellow Rotarian. We eat a delicious fresh breakfast of eggs, fruit, toast and muffins, enjoy camaraderie, hear from a compelling speaker who enlightens us, and head out into the rest of our day feeling a bit lighter than when we went in.

Rotary takes a bit of time and a very little bit of money for dues and such, but what it takes it gives back in spades. You might think you don’t have time to be a Rotarian (you do) or you won’t fit in (you will), and nowhere will you be more welcome in a room of strangers than when you walk into a room of Rotarians.

The CSH Rotary meets every Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church in Shelburne.