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There have been many occasions during my tenure as Governor that I have been immensely proud of the Rotarians and Rotary Clubs in our District. Without a doubt Rotarians at Work Day was right up there with those special moments.
Although most clubs did most of their work on 21st April, the day that that we formally designated for this event, a number of clubs started earlier due to specific circumstances and to fit in with our major sponsor Bunnings, and their support partners – Dulux, Selleys and Yates.
We kicked off the program by assisting the Friends of Westgate Park with the restoration work at Westgate Park on 6th April. Westgate Park is a real hidden gem if you have not been there. The Rotary Clubs of Southbank and Melbourne were there in force to make a significant contribution. The following day an amazing multicultural festival was staged at St Albans by the Rotary Club of Brimbank Central. This has great potential to be a continuing signature event for the area, although weary club members might not have shared those thoughts as they cleaned up after the event!
We were blessed by great weather on Sunday 21st April, especially in the morning, which was when many of the clubs concentrated their efforts. Lynda and I tried to visit as many of the project activities as possible but of course unfortunately we could not be everywhere. We did get to visit activities from Brighton to Daylesford where we saw the amazing work of Rotary in action. It was good to see many members of the public looking on at what we were doing and many of them did take the time to engage and ask about Rotary.
It was great to see plenty of signs around many projects so that the public did know that it was Rotary in action. And we did have a lot of Friends of Rotary helping as well. I know that some of those friends took the decision on that day to become Rotarians. The fellowship and opportunity provided by this sort of activity to get to better know one another cannot be underestimated. We also engaged others in the community including Councillors and other community leaders. The significance of these contributions is inestimable.
The scope of projects undertaken reflected the creativity and range of vision of Rotarians. There were many gardening and renovation projects, which are always immensely satisfying because of the gratitude of recipients for what is done but also because participants can see the results of their endeavour.
In many cases more than one club worked on a project and we had cluster projects as well. For Lynda and me it was also an opportunity to discover even more hidden gems. We started the day with a visit to the work being done by Brighton North to provide some TLC to their Rotary Centenary project, which is a fantastic play park done out as a ship at Brighton North Road Reserve. The work was done in full view of what must be one of the most popular coffee spots in Melbourne so Rotary was certainly on display at work. Of course there were a few kids disappointed that the fantastic playground was off limits for the day.
A little further south at Green Point the Rotary clubs of Brighton Beach and Brighton were hard at work in a picture post card setting to restore native vegetation. Brighton President Peter Sherman showed his true colours by being photographed in a Rotary Club of Brighton Beach vest (but not until I was out of sight).
The 10 clubs Eastside and Yarra clusters, assisted by the Rotary Club of Mont Albert & Surrey Hills from District 9810 worked at a range of major garden renovations for people in need in the City of Boroondara. Rotarians and friends worked like navvies and I’m sure that many discovered muscles that they forgot they had and would certainly know about it on Monday. I did notice a few activities that would have had our district Insurance officer ashen faced but I was assured that I did not actually see what I thought I saw.
The Hobsons Bay cluster took on the renovation of the Newport Scouts Hall. This was not a job done by halves and involved replacing doors with walls and putting windows where there had been none. Paint flowed like water and not just onto the walls. There is more work to be done but this work will undoubtedly see a reinvigoration of scouting in Newport. The workers include DGN Murray Verso, all the Cluster Presidents (leading by example) and PDG John Davis who perhaps in his first visit to the hall in more than 40 years was making sure that his name was still on the honour Board as a Queen’s Scout, and he was no doubt pleased to note, it was.
Westside Cluster had an ambitious project to teach water safety to refugees. Numbers attending were disappointing but the concept is one that I am sure will be followed through to ensure that this vital service is delivered.
Lynda and I concluded our visits with a Peace concert held in the Daylesford Town Hall. The Rotary Club of Daylesford is of course well known in that community but Rotary and our theme for this year were very much on display. The concert capped off work done to refurbish the Peace Mile walking track on Lake Daylesford.
It would have been fantastic to have been able to visit all work areas to personally congratulate Rotarians on the great work they were doing. Although that was not possible I do salute everyone across the District who connected with our community so positively – thank you.
Rotarians did connect with the community in spades. Not only did we receive comments from passersby but some even took the trouble to contact clubs. The Rotary Club of Essendon was doing graffiti removal and received the following message – “This morning as I was walking my dog in Rose Street, I noticed a large group of your Rotarians doing a cleanup of the graffiti around the station area. May I say that I was very impressed with the enthusiasm and generosity of the people doing the clean up, this is very much appreciated and I wish to thank all involved”.
At Woodend the Rotarians at Work Day project for Woodend Rotary involved the refurbishment of an old fence at the entrance to the township of Woodend. The work received lots of attention from locals passing the area and compliments on making a much improved gateway into Woodend.
We appreciate the support of Bunnings, Dulux, Selleys and Yates in helping Rotary to achieve as much as it did. We also had Bunnings staff participate in some of our projects and that is what partnerships are about.
In Rotary Magazine Month it was really great to see our District initiative feature on the front page of Rotary Down Under and hopefully there was a reasonable take-up in other Districts. This District wide program has been a great success in the USA and elsewhere and I do hope that it continues and grows here because the concept knows no boundaries. The rebranding of the program as Rotary (and friends) @ Work gives us that indefinable pleasure of putting our own stamp on what we do. As we all know Rotary is amazing and we as Rotarians we can achieve amazing things through Rotary. But it is the connection with the community that makes what we do have the greatest impact.
This program provides us with an ongoing opportunity for connecting, reconnecting and staying connected with our community. Thank you to Rotarians (and Friends) of District 9800 for showing Rotary, at its very best, to your communities. Well done.