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Rotary Clubs honored at annual conference

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Area Rotary Clubs were recently recognized by their peers, for efforts to promote service in the community.

The annual Rotary District 6900 Super Conference was held Friday through Sunday, at the Cobb Galleria Center. More than 1,100 Rotarians in the district, which covers eastern and central Georgia, attended the event, according to James Withers, president of the Rotary Club of Henry County.

"It's the one time a year that all the Rotarians from District 6900 get together," Withers said. "It's a time to recognize different clubs for service projects they've done over the past year. We were specifically recognized for an electronic scrapbook we put together, that showed events we had done over the last nine months."

Henry Rotarians, he continued, were also awarded a Gold distinction -- the top level of accolades given at the conference -- for a local literacy program the club conducted within the last nine months.

"We sold stock certificates for the Ferst Foundation, which is an organization that provides books to newborns," Withers said. "The certificates are $36 each, and supplies a year's worth of books. We sold at least 50."

The conference, according to Withers, featured speakers from Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Withers said another highlight of the conference came when 32 Henry Rotarians showed up at the event dressed as Elvis Presley, in jail jumpsuits reminiscent of the "Jailhouse Rock" film.

"The Henry County Rotary Club is known for doing outrageous things at conferences," said Withers. "We're a younger club, and we just like to spice things up a bit."

Rotary Clubs in Henry and Clayton counties were honored during the conference, for the second straight year, for their participation in the Georgia Rotary Student Program. Michael Campbell, an exchange student from Scotland who was sponsored by both clubs, won the Will Watt Fellow Award at the conference.

"It's a student-sponsorship program," said Kerry Arnold, president-elect of the Henry Rotary Club. "[Students] come here for a year, and we pay for them to go to school and whatever other lodging charges are associated with the school. In our case, Campbell goes to Clayton State University."

The Henry and Clayton clubs, according to Arnold, split the cost of Campbell's education at Clayton State. The clubs also included Campbell in various activities in which they were involved, in order to acclimate the student to life in the United States.

Sheri Willis, associate resources director of United Way for Butts, Henry and Clayton counties, has been a member of the Henry Rotary Club for more than two years, and is the group's literacy chairperson. She said she enjoyed the fellowship with other Rotarians at the conference, and learning about what other groups in the state are doing in their communities.

"They basically treat you as family, whether you know them or not," she said. "Our philosophy is, 'service above self.' That was the way I lived my life before Rotary, so it seemed like a good fit."