Happy 100th birthday!

Jeff vonKaenel

This year is the 100th birthday of the Rotary Club of Sacramento. I have been a member of Rotary for 10 percent of those 100 years. While the Sacramento club and its sister clubs around the world have made a difference to hundreds of millions of people, this column is about how they have made a difference in my little world.

My major motivation in joining Rotary was networking. I thought the Rotary Club would have members who would be interested in advertising. I also thought I would get some good story ideas.

I have definitely learned about some great stories. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the best place to find advertisers. But surprisingly, I’ve found that the fellowship and commitment to giving back to the community have proven to be the most important things I’ve gained from my time in Rotary.

When I first joined Rotary, I was much younger. And most of the Rotary members were men who were older than me. They had just recently allowed female members to join. Now there’s a significant percentage of women in Rotary.

Most Rotary members were local business owners. Most were smart, funny and, to my surprise, not only successful in business, but also successful in life. While I have no data, my guess is that the percentage of Rotary members with happy long-term marriages, adoring children and committed employees is significantly higher than the norm.

At Rotary, I appreciated that members were recognized not for how much they had, but rather for how much they gave back to the community in time and treasure. The weekly meeting has been, and continues to be for me a recognition of the things in life that are really important.

And then there is what Rotary does for Sacramento and the world. Rotary members regularly volunteer, donate significant amounts of money to local charities and, with other clubs, are making a difference throughout the world. Rotary has been a leader in the worldwide charge to eliminate polio.

My family also saw Rotary’s impact on young people around the world when our daughter spent 10 months going to high school in Denmark. She had the experience of a lifetime, living with three different Rotary families and experiencing in depth a different country and culture, which, in turn, gave her a better understanding of our country and culture. You can imagine my appreciation of Rotary when I saw a video of my daughter being recognized as an honorary Viking, and speaking Danish on a Danish television show.

So please join me in saluting the Sacramento Rotary for all of their accomplishments over the last century. I believe there are still tickets available for the Centennial Gala (May 17). But even if you can’t attend the celebration, take a moment to appreciate an organization that changes the world, starting with its own members.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.