What happens when you say yes to Rotary

Lisa Herring

Rotary Club of Junction, Texas

Every week when she was in high school, Lisa Herring and her fellow Interactors would visit a local nursing home and spend time with the residents. Other days she would help the local Rotary club with their projects. Today, she can see how that time changed her view of the world.

“When we’re young, we’re focused on ourselves,” she says. “But to see that there are needs outside my own, and that I can make a difference in someone else’s life, that was really important.”

Two of her kids participated in Rotary Youth Exchange. Her daughter traveled to Italy and Ecuador, and her son went to Switzerland, where he unwittingly found his calling: One of his host fathers was an engineer and a general contractor, and Herring’s son decided that’s what he wanted to do. But he also wanted to be a Rotarian. It’s a family tradition.

Karen Purdue

Rotary Club of Invercargill Sunrise, New Zealand

In 2006, Karen Purdue’s laundry business in the southern New Zealand city of Invercargill burned to the ground. Her fellow Rotarians helped Purdue get back on her feet, with a new workspace, new office furniture, even a new photocopier.

“When I think about my life — my family, my personal life, my business life — Rotary is part of all of those,” she says.

And Rotary helped Purdue find her purpose in life and her dream job.

“I now work in community engagement and community development,” she says. “I know my Rotary and volunteering background was the reason I was selected against others. I wouldn’t have gotten it if I wasn’t in Rotary.”

Paul Bucurel

Rotary Club of East Mississippi, Mississippi

When Paul Bucurel first joined Rotary, he was a young radio station manager, and it seemed like a good way to drum up business. New leads didn’t exactly flood in from the club, but he stayed, mostly out of habit. He rose to leadership, and when he was district governor, he saw how dramatically Rotary could change someone’s life.

“I was absolutely humbled that somehow I was asked to be part of the leadership of the world’s greatest humanitarian organization,” he says.

Bucurel says Rotary has made him more generous with his time, his money, and his efforts.

“When we say yes to Rotary, I don’t think many people really understand the scope of what they’re saying yes to. The great joy is finding that out.”

Gladys Maldonado Rodriguez

Rotary Club of San José de Cúcuta, Colombia

When Gladys Maldonado Rodriguez talks about Rotary, she gets so excited that no one can stop her. She says the years since joining her club in 2001 have been a journey of discovery. Formerly afraid to face a crowd, Maldonado learned, for example, that she loves giving speeches — so much so that she now trains senior Rotary leaders in public speaking. And Maldonado is not the only one benefiting from her membership: Her children are learning the values of leadership and service by attending Rotary activities.

A past governor of District 4271, Maldonado also discovered that Rotary could help her achieve some of her aspirations, such as assisting a local children’s home. “Before becoming a Rotarian, I was not able to help my community so easily,” she says. “Rotary, as if by magic, made my dream come true.” With her club’s help, the children’s home received an aqueduct, a water treatment plant, and musical instruments.

Maldonado believes that Rotary also helped enhance the joy she takes in her life. Where once she was exclusively devoted to her career and children, she now shares her time with a diverse group of friends from different parts of the world — and the difference in languages is no barrier to communication. “It is in la sonrisa, el abrazo” — the smile, the embrace — “that we Rotarians can understand each other.”