The Rotary Club of Bonds Meadow is small, but it reaches around the world. The 18-member service club, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in September 2014, meets every Tuesday evening at Carroll Lutheran Village Hospitality Center, at 900 Mission Drive in Westminster.
The club is part of Rotary International, which was founded by Chicago attorney Paul P. Harris, who proposed the idea to three other businessmen in 1905 with the goal of "[creating] a professional group with the same friendly spirit [Harris] felt in the small towns of his youth," according to Rotary International's website.
The Rotary name came from the charter members' agreement to rotate their meeting locations around the city to each member's office. According to the website, today's Rotary clubs have 1.2 million members worldwide.
The Bonds Meadow club's members include "community leaders, retirees, business owners and nonprofit workers," public relations chair Lisa Picker wrote in an email.
"We are a group of folks who want to be more engaged with their communities and effect positive change in [the] world," she said.
Picker said many members also serve on community boards or belong to other clubs besides Rotary.
In the spirit of the Rotarians' motto, "service above self," the club is active locally and globally.
Local service projects include giving dictionaries to students at Carroll County elementary schools and doing maintenance on the Washington Road Trail, where the club also installed benches in 2014. The trail is a network of running, walking and biking paths from Westminster High School to the Hill Family Center Y in Westminster.
During the recent holiday season, club members volunteered as red-kettle bell ringers at the Safeway in Westminster to raise funds for the Salvation Army.
The club gives to organizations such as Access Carroll, the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster, the Carroll County Public Library, Carroll Hospital, Flying Colors of Success and Target Community Services, all of which support Carroll County residents.
The club supports causes outside the community, as well, including Ebola treatment in Africa, helping flood victims in Columbia, South Carolina, assisting earthquake victims in Nepal, and contributing to a clean-water project in India. It coordinates its global efforts with U.S.-based nonprofits and organizations working in the countries where the help is needed.
The club also supports Rotary International efforts including a long-term project to eradicate polio, which is still a problem in some South Asian and African countries. Picker wrote in an email that eradicating the disease is very close to becoming a reality.
"Even though we're a small club in a rural [area] we're very active internationally," said Peter Whitford, club member and chair of international service projects.
Bentzel works for IMA World Health in New Windsor. IMA implements health projects throughout the world and has had a long-term connection with Bonds Meadow and other rotary clubs.
One significant club project begun in 2000 through IMA World Health combats river blindness in a remote province of Tanzania, Whitford said. River blindness, or onchocerciasis, is caused by a parasite transmitted by a black fly that lives along riverbanks.
Another international project, this one begun in 2007, provided kits of sanitary and comfort items for women in childbirth, Whitford said. Kits included sterile gauze, a sterile blade for cutting the umbilical cord, a tunic and knitted cap for the newborn and other items, he said.
Club members assembled the kits and gave them to IMA to ship to countries such as Haiti, Congo and South Sudan where they were distributed to expectant mothers through existing infrastructure, he said.
"We probably prevented a lot of childbirth infections," Whitford said.
The Bonds Meadow club holds two major fundraisers each year: Oktoberfest, a joint effort with all Rotary clubs in Carroll County, and a bull roast on the first Friday in May.
Its weekly meetings, which include a speaker presentation, are open to the public so people can see what the club is all about.
Jennifer Bentzel, vice president of programs, said each meeting opens at 7:15 a.m. with the pledge of allegiance and a prayer. These are followed by conversation and networking over breakfast. Toward the end of breakfast, the speaker is introduced and gives a 20- to 30-minute presentation, often with a question and answer session. Meetings usually conclude by 8:30 a.m.
The breakfast costs $10 for visitors.
Bentzel coordinates the speaker schedule. She said weekly presenters cover a broad spectrum of topics. The speaker may be a club member who gives a talk to introduce him/herself to the club or a local community leader or business person who shares from his/her area of expertise.
"On occasion, [we] get fascinating individuals with stories we try to promote a little bit more heavily. We've had people talk about the Titanic [and] the Civil War cyclorama [in Gettysburg, Pa.]," said Mike Walters, president of the club.
Upcoming speakers are Carolyn Puckett, of the Carroll County Forestry Board and Carroll County Weed Warriors, who will talk about invasive exotic plants and share practical ways to preserve native habitats at the Jan. 12 meeting, and Mark Darrell, of Darrell Financial Services in Finksburg, who will explore the economic and investment outlook for 2016 at the Jan. 19 meeting.
In addition to its weekly meetings, the club hosts open houses a few times each year for people to learn more about the club. Watch the club's Facebook page for notice of the next open house.
"What [Rotary] offers for business and professional people who have an interest in serving the community is an opportunity to do that [and] to strengthen their ties to each other and to the community. We enjoy getting together once a week and [we] have some fun activities as well as serious business," Whitford said.
People can support Rotary by becoming a member, sponsoring a Rotary event, attending a Rotary fundraiser, or donating to a local Rotary club or The Rotary Foundation, Picker said.
"We're looking for new members who have a strong service orientation. When you join it is a commitment — it is a time commitment and kind of a moral commitment to work on all these projects and activities," Whitford said.