(Ashland, Ore.) — Overachievement is becoming a thing for Southern Oregon University’s fledgling Rotaract Club. Most recently, the club’s student members set a fund-raising target of $1,000 for the ShelterBox disaster relief organization – and quickly quadrupled their goal.
“The Rotaract Club made over 300 origami 16-point stars to raise money for ShelterBox,” said club secretary Hannah Howard, explaining that members asked potential donors to pay what they could afford as a holiday-season contribution.
“We canvassed in front of Safeway, Market of Choice and at several Rotary Club meetings, making over $4,000 for ShelterBox,” Howard said. “To put this in perspective, it could fund four shelter boxes. We were so thrilled with the amount, and beyond grateful to all the club members who made it happen.”
Here’s another bit of perspective: Previous attempts have been made at SOU to organize a campus chapter of Rotaract – an entry-level version of Rotary International, geared toward young adults. Those efforts largely involved students in their final year at SOU and ultimately fizzled when the seniors graduated, but Howard and a handful of other current students have established a robust club in just over a year. It now has 15 to 20 active members, freshman through senior, and more than 60 who have shown interest in specific club projects.
The club’s other student officers are Lizzy Blackwell, president; Jackie Blanchette, vice president; Max Ostendorf, treasurer; and Christina Richardson and Sarah Grulikowski, immediate past co-presidents.
“I have been the Rotaract Club of SOU faculty advisor for a little over a year, and feel very lucky to work with such wonderful students,” said Melissa Anderson, campus engagement librarian at SOU’s Hannon Library.
Rotaract chapters must take on one local project and one “world service” project each year. The SOU club orchestrated a successful “Caroling for Cans” food drive for this year’s local project, then crushed its fundraising goal for ShelterBox – an official partner organization of Rotary International that takes relief efforts to people whose lives have been upended by natural disasters or conflict. They presented their ShelterBox pitch at five Rotary meetings in Ashland and Medford.
“The students are overwhelmed by the generosity they have witnessed, and empowered by the skills and confidence they have gained through this endeavor,” said former SOU President Elisabeth Zinser, the Rotaract club’s liaison to its sponsor, the Rotary Club of Ashland. “It is truly their project – they chose it, designed it, studied it and executed it.”
ShelterBox provides relief to people displaced by disasters throughout the world, delivering shelter boxes that each contain a large tent “house,” water purification kit, blankets and other equipment that will enable a family to survive. The charity was founded in 2000 in the United Kingdom, and has responded to events including the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Anderson, the Rotaract club’s faculty advisor, said support and guidance from the Rotary Club of Ashland and its sister organization, the Lithia Springs Rotary Club, have been critical to the student club’s success. But she credits the resourcefulness and enthusiasm of Rotaract members for accomplishing the club’s goals.
“The amazing job our SOU students did raising money for this very worthwhile organization – during finals, no less – is really going to make a difference in the world,” Anderson said. “The students have put the Rotary motto, ‘Service Above Self,’ into action – which is very fitting, since the Rotaract name itself stands for ‘Rotary in Action.’”