Lee Weinman joined Rotary initially for one very simple reason. Gardendale’s mayor asked him to join.
The late Kenny Clemons was a member of the Rotary Club of Gardendale (now Rotary Club of North Jefferson) in 2002 and was a friend and Sunday school classmate of Weinman’s. Weinman had moved to Gardendale in 1977, but still didn’t know many people in the area, outside of church members. Clemons thought joining Rotary would allow him to meet new people and become more involved in the local community.
Fast forward 17 years and Weinman is poised to take over as District Governor for the 2020-2021 year. In that role, he will oversee 51 clubs in north Alabama, including the largest single club in the world, the Birmingham Rotary Club.
Weinman explained that some clubs are locally-focused and some are internationally-focused, but every club is slightly different.
“There are many different ways that Rotary touches communities,” Weinman explained.
The local club is a tight-knit group that works hard on both local and international projects, but they are tied to Rotary Club International, which boasts more than 1.2 million members in 35,000 clubs in 200 countries or specific geographic regions.
Locally, the group worked to help create the Miracle League Park for children with special needs, cleaned the Cluster Springs Cemetery and helped purchase refrigeration equipment for the Mt. Olive concession stand at the ballpark, among other projects.
Internationally, the local club has worked to help bring clean water to Haiti by installing more than 250 water filtration systems in the country, digging a well and installing a water filtration system in Nicaragua and purchasing dental equipment to be used in mission trips to north Africa and Peru.
In addition to the initiatives taken on by each club, Rotary International has projects that all clubs contribute to, including the eradication of polio worldwide. In 1979, Rotary vowed to immunize six million children in the Philippines against polio. After that, the group promised the children of the world that they would eradicate the disease completely. With funds matches 2:1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the group has cut the number of reported illnesses globally from 350,000 reported cases in 1988 to less than 20 so far in 2019.
Heinemann hopes more people will become involved in Rotary locally.
“If you want an avenue to give back, Rotary is a great avenue to do that,” Weinman said. “I have been blessed to meet a large number of really good people from all over the world.”
The North Jefferson Rotary Club meets each Wednesday at noon at the Gardendale Civic Center. Anyone interested in learning more about Rotary or joining, should contact a Rotary member or attend one of the weekly meetings.