It’s no secret – Hoosier societal issues and needs are complex and far-ranging. Outside of the political realm, how can one person make a high-impact difference in resolving issues and improving overall quality of life?
From environmental issues to access to healthcare and education to dealing with crime and more, all of our communities in Indiana can benefit from thoughtful, caring engagement, particularly in serving one another.
Sound nice? What about the practicality of actually doing something?
Certainly literally hundreds of volunteer opportunities present themselves. And all have value to one degree or another. But I invite you to consider one force multiplier that can help you make a real difference in your community: a local service organization. For multiple decades, people serving in organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis, Shriners, Lions, Optimists and more have quietly enriched the quality of community life, often helping address and resolve issues on local, state, national and even global stages.
Before one rolls one’s eyes about “old-fashioned” service clubs, consider this. Rotary is well-known for its successful work in helping to eradicate polio in partnership with the Gates Foundation. That disease was once a devastating scourge of the world, especially in third-world countries, and today is greatly reduced from the world scene. Kiwanis, with its international headquarters here in Indianapolis, is well-known for its work with improving the lives of children. The Shriners positively impact hospitals and healthcare institutions across the nation. Who hasn’t heard of the great work that Lions Clubs do to promote vision needs? They touch lives around the world by also addressing diabetes, hunger, childhood cancer and more. The list, thankfully, goes on.
Allow me to relate a local example. You may have heard of “Indy Do Day,” a time when many people and organizations team up on various levels to improve the quality of life in Indianapolis. It was started through a volunteer effort at Lilly, but has become a main service project of the Indianapolis downtown Rotary Club. I personally have had substantial engagement in this project, which has created all sorts of good advances over the years. Perhaps you were directly involved and know what I’m talking about. The pandemic took its toll on this project, but today, Indy Rotary partners with beselflessindy.org, an innovative online philanthropy platform to help keep the project going.
As one person wanting to help, Rotary served as a force multiplier for me.
I know from personal experience that Rotary goes far beyond the mythical perception of a weekly knife and fork luncheon or breakfast. Through Rotary member engagement, our club sent more than 7,000 meals to Ukrainian refugees in July. We’ve consistently and literally been in the Indy weeds, working to clean up sections of the White River. Our weekly luncheons feature CEOs and community leaders who help educate our business and civic members about critical issues facing the greater Indianapolis community and the Hoosier state.
In addition to being a force multiplier, Rotary – like other service clubs – also serves as a cultural leveler and an entity that creates and transforms positive societal change.
This year for the first time, the international president of Rotary is a woman. Canadian media professional Jennifer Jones broke the service club glass ceiling and as our international president is urging people to “imagine Rotary” as her theme – pushing forth a powerful message to get engaged in high-impact service.
Locally, the Rotary Club of Indianapolis has had a number of woman leaders, including long-time prominent finance professional Elaine Bedel, who has served as the Indiana Secretary of Commerce and today serves as the CEO of the Indiana Destination Development Corporation. I am privileged to follow in her and others footsteps.
Together, our Rotary Club has made a significant difference locally across the board. In addition to direct (and numerous) volunteer efforts, our local foundation has made grants of multiple thousands of dollars to many worthy organizations like the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, the Saint Florian Center, Assistance League of Indianapolis, Goodwill Nurse-Family Partnership, Pack Away Hunger, We Bloom – Recovery Café, Flanner House, Schools on Wheels Corp, the Center of Wellness for Urban Woman, ProAct Indy (mobile food pantry), the Near Northwest Faith Partners (a grassroots relief organization providing food, economic and social relief), the regional Chin (Burmese) community, and, of course, our world service efforts. That’s just a start – like our other service club colleagues, the list stretches long!
If you’re wanting to make a difference in these turbulent times, why not consider the force multiplying effect of a service club? Want to try one out? Our Tuesday luncheon meetings – unusually featuring insightful presentations by state and local business and civic leaders – are open to anyone. Check us out at indyrotary.com/ and ramp up your impact today!
Jenny Dexter, vice president of business development for Matchbook (https://mtchbk.com/), also serves as the president of the Rotary Club of Indianapolis for 2022-2023.