Posted by Bob Blevins on Jul 19, 2017

Rotary InternationalWith the launch of our new website, our all-in-one website designer, tech guru, secretary, and public relations director, Ben Cowgill, Esq., has encouraged me to “blog.”

(Note: I cringe when I use that word “blog” as a verb. That word barely existed 20 years ago, noun or verb. I prefer the verb “write”).

Ben assures me — I expect as a means of encouraging me to do it — that a blog can be about “anything” (his word). So, with no commitment to periodicity, here’s “something” (my word) for my inaugural blog.

One of our club’s initiatives for this 2017-2018 year is to increase our members’ rate of attendance. Attendance is probably the primary and one of the best ways of keeping Rotarians “engaged.” Engagement is a term that Rotary International uses to describe members who actively pursue the Rotary experience. Rotarians who are engaged are fulfilled Rotarians, and fulfilled Rotarians do not contemplate their world without Rotary in it. They are Rotarians for life. It is a part of their identity, and using my own identity as a barometer, it falls I would guess somewhere below their religious affiliation, their status as husband / wife, father / mother, their career title, but above most other identifiers on their identity inventory.

At about 70% attendance our club falls in line with a lot of clubs in District 7570. Rotary International though, highly encourages, I will even suggest, expects 100% attendance from every Rotarian, and speaking for myself as an active Rotarian, it surprises me that our club or any club should fall below 100% attendance. With attendance opportunities at club meetings (which for me are one of the highlights of my week), open board meetings, service projects, fundraising events, the district conference, the annual convention, RLI classes, PETS trainings, social events, committee meetings, and of course, the last-resort option of making-up meetings on line, I have to wonder how anyone who willfully accepts the call to be a Rotarian could claim anything less.

Our club requires only two attendance instances per month, and after all, availing oneself of the events I just rattled off is what Rotary is all about! I remember that day in 2013 when I stood up in front of the club, got my pin, and signed on as a Rotarian, Rick Edwards asking me as part of my pledge whether, among other things I would agree to attend all meetings. I think we all took the same pledge, didn’t we? So far I’ve been pretty good about it. Why wouldn’t I? Meetings, to paraphrase Ben Cowgill’s recent observation, are integral to that important, social dimension of the Rotary experience.

Those were my Lecture Paragraphs. Now here are my paragraphs about the absolute best way to make up a meeting, and one that I hope every member of our club and every club avails himself or herself of this year.

When on the road I love to visit Rotary clubs. In my own experience as a visiting Rotarian, I have invariably been warmly welcomed, and even treated as something of a celebrity. Every club wants to put its best foot forward when a Rotarian visits it. It’s as though the host club has a line in the water and it’s just caught a rare fish. I take a club flag with me and have always gotten one in return. I highly recommend the practice. You actually don’t even have to travel far to get the experience. I’ve attended the Lynchburg Morning Rotary Club a couple times and have been treated to the same reception. (Don’t bother taking a flag there though. They’ve already got one of ours, I’m sure. We probably gave them one when we chartered them.) I encourage everyone this year to find a club somewhere and visit it. If you haven’t taken your vacation yet, go online to My Rotary, to the Club Finder, and find a club near where you’ll be going. Take a Rotary Club of Lynchburg flag with you. Oh yes, and above all, don’t embarrass your club’s president: WEAR YOUR PIN!

Speaking of visiting other clubs, my wife Betty and I went on vacation to the Napa Valley last week, and I found myself – at least I thought so at the time – with the opportunity once again of enjoying that fraternal Rotary experience as a visiting Rotarian. When we first committed to vacationing the second week in July I had been afraid that I was going to have to miss our own club’s first July meeting. So I went out to the Club Finder section of the My Rotary website and found that the Rotary Club of Calistoga, California, would be meeting at noon on Thursday, the 13th at which time we ourselves would be in that town. Using our GPS we navigated our way to the venue as it was published in the Club Finder – the Tucker Building of the Calistoga Fairgrounds – and got there ten minutes before noon. It seemed a little odd that the building was locked up tight as a drum, and that the only souls in sight were a crew of workmen digging something on the grounds, and who looked at us with a grain of suspicion. Ignoring the workmen and attempting to appear from our rented convertible VW Beetle as though we knew what we were doing, we even waited at the sight until a suitable time after 12 noon to make sure their club didn’t have a collective tardiness issue. Nothing. This bogey was something of a disappointment to me, and I think to Betty as well. I honestly have no idea how we could have missed the mark, and I’ve sent an email to the president of that Calistoga club to ask where I might have gone wrong. As of this writing he hasn’t responded. Now, the happy ending to this story is that, as we all know, with not much notice Oakwood Country Club booted the Rotary Club of Lynchburg from its scheduled meeting on the 11th and so we rescheduled our club’s meeting for the 18th when Oakwood could accommodate us. My attendance record remains uncompromised even without a visit to the Rotary Club of Calistoga.

I hope my real point is taken, which is about attendance, and through attendance, engagement. As for me, I’ve got 100% attendance, but it’s still my stated goal, just for fun, to try to get to every club in Area 5 in the course of the year. That should be possible. Gary Christie assures me that it’s even realistic to get down to Smith Mountain Lake for their breakfast meeting and be back in Lynchburg and at work by 9 a.m. But to reiterate my point, it’s that I hope every member of the club will commit to prioritizing his or her experience in the club this year, and commit to 100% attendance. Let’s think of that jump from 70% to 100% as being a full 30% more that our great club can accomplish this year.