By Jason A. Smith
Leaders of the Rotary Club of Henry County are looking back on last year with a sense of accomplishment, and are continuing to look for ways to make a positive impact on the community.
"One of the things about Rotary is, that whenever we get involved in a project, we don't like to just write the check," said Adam Stanfield, immediate past president. "We like to have volunteer opportunities for our members."
And volunteered, the Rotarians have -- giving help to battered women, supporting school music programs, and victims of the Haiti earthquake. They also have built a ramp at the home of an elderly McDonough man.
As the club approaches the close of its 2009-10 year, the group's president-elect, Kerry Arnold, said he hopes to build on this year's success when he is sworn in as president on June 26. One project, in which Arnold has worked closely in the last 12 months, is the creation of a playground at the Haven House domestic-violence shelter in McDonough. His goal is to have the playground in place when Haven House moves to its new facility, in the county's administration complex.
"It takes about three or four months to complete," said Arnold. "We want the playground equipment up when they finish the building. So, we're looking at, probably, October or November. When that thing opens, we want the kids, who come, to have a playground."
Arnold said, although his goal for the playground is an ambitious one, he plans to oversee an effort to involve local residents in fund-raising for the project. "We've gotten permission from the Wal-Mart in McDonough to set up a tent on Saturday, July 24, and just tell people what we're collecting money for," he continued. "Depending on how well that goes, we may have to do more of that. We're determined we're going to get this thing purchased, and put up, when the Haven House opens."
The cost of the playground project is approximately $16,000, according to former president Stanfield. He said his group has raised roughly a third of the amount needed. Club members have pledged to supply the labor to put the playground in place.
Arnold said the club has been active, over the last year, in several other endeavors related to Henry's children. In the fall of 2009, the group sponsored a Rotary Rocks event at Ola High School, featuring musician Bobby Yang.
"We were able to buy some musical instruments for Henry County high schools. With all the budget cuts this year, who knew that was going to be such a benefit last year?" said Arnold.
The club has worked with organizations dedicated to promoting literacy among children. One club member, Sheri Willis, spearheads the delivery of dictionaries to third-graders in Henry.
Stanfield said Rotarians collected more than 300 books during the past year, which were donated to the Locust Grove Public Library in March. Rotarians gave $2,100 to Shiloh Baptist Church in McDonough, for a computer-tutorial program. The purpose of the program is to prepare students for Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests each year, according to Shiloh's pastor, the Rev. E.W. Lee.
"Kids can come in and get help with math, reading, science and so forth," Lee said. "I was elated to have a club or organization in the county that was targeting after-school programs, to help make them better, and to impact the study habits of kids in a much greater way."
The Rotary Club also has participated in projects to help provide clean drinking water in other countries. Arnold said the club's collective desire to help people on an international level was further triggered on Jan. 12, when a devastating earthquake shook the island nation of Haiti.
"In about a month, we collected $9,000, bought 10 of those shelter boxes, and had those shipped to Haiti," Arnold said. "That's over and above the other stuff we were doing, too. That's one of those things where it's an emergency, and everybody pulls together."
Michelle Deraney, another past president of the Rotary Club, led the group during the 2007-08 year. "We placed collection boxes in 500 area businesses," Deraney said. "From the collection of those monies and donations, we purchased shelter kits, which contained a tent, blankets and food for up to 12 people. It touches my heart to realize the power of a club of less than 50 people, and the impact it can make on people in need, as far away as Haiti."