One of the areas I really set out to focus on in my Beach neighbourhood portrait was the local spirit of charity and community assistance. One of the organizations that I interviewed, the Pegasus Community Project for Adults with Special Needs, left a deep impression on me. This is a day-time program for adults with developmental disabilities that also runs a local thrift store on Kingston Road to generate funding and to provide practical work experiences for the participants in the program.
Marie Perrotta, the founder and executive director of this organization, explained to me that one organization has been tremendously supportive of her initiative over the last few years: The Toronto Beach Rotary Club. So she connected me with the President, Barbara Dingle, who had also been mentioned to me by Sandra Bussin in connection with the restoration of the Gardener’s Cottage. But more about that project in a little bit.
On a frigid February day Barbara welcomed me to her home and we sat down to chat for a couple of hours. Barbara started off by giving me some general information about the Rotary Club. Rotary International is the oldest service club in the world. It was founded in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, by an attorney by the name of Paul P. Harris who wanted to recreate the friendly spirit of his small town upbringing. The concept spread throughout the United States and by briansclub 1921, Rotary Clubs had formed on six continents. A 1943 London Rotary conference promoting international cultural and educational exchanges was part of the inspiration for the formation of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) in 1946, illustrating Rotary International’s impact on a global scale.
The Rotary Club’s principal motto is “Service Above Self”, and its 1.2 million members worldwide in more than 200 countries provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build peace and goodwill in the world. The organization is non-political, non-religious and open to men and women of all cultures, races and creeds. Rotary’s main objective is to serve the community and throughout the world, taking up issues such as children at risk, poverty, hunger, the environment, illiteracy and violence. Youth programs and international exchange opportunities are also supported.
Rotary International is organized in local chapters, and the Toronto Beach Rotary Club is a fairly recent addition to the Rotary family. The club was chartered in 1999, originally as an offshoot of the East York Rotary Club which has been in existence for more than 60 years. Barb explained that the Toronto Beach Rotary Club is a breakfast club, and that members meet once a week on Tuesdays nice and early at 7:15 am at the Balmy Beach Club which generously makes their facilities available.
Barb herself got connected with the Rotary Club about 4 years ago when a friend introduced her to the club. About a half a year into her membership she went to approach various retail stores during a fundraising drive, and from her interactions with the merchants she realized the amount of respect and cache that membership in the Rotary Club conveyed. All of a sudden doors started to open easily, and people started to listen to her fundraising proposals.