‘All veterans are not without need’: Local veterans Rotary Club slowly taking shape

Normally members on the Dixie Sunrise Rotary would be out on its annual Alzheimer's Walk, but 2020 was a little different combining the walk with the club’s Dixie Drive Cleanup initiative. Volunteers included members of the Sunriver Hiking Club, Root for Kids, St. George Area Chamber of Commerce and Neighborhood Connection. Photo location and date not specified | Photo courtesy David Nelson, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Rotary Club to meet the specific needs of Southern Utah’s veteran community is slowly coming to life.

The idea to form a satellite club – which initially would be part of the Rotary Club of Dixie Sunrise – started to be considered late last year. The symbiotic relationship would allow a fledgling club of at least eight people to share in its larger cousin’s resources as it grows and learns to function on its own and brings people together in fellowship to help an often overlooked community.

Once membership reaches 20 it would cut its ties to the sponsoring club and become considered a “stand-alone,” self-reliant and self-directed independent club.

The idea was the brainchild of Utah Rotary’s District Governor-elect Jose Velasco and David Nelson, chairperson for service projects with the Rotary Club of Dixie Sunrise, as well as the other 44 clubs across the state.

Despite being in the era of COVID-19, a Zoom meeting held Thursday attracted more than 20 people – Rotary and non-Rotary, military and non-military personnel – interested in the concept.

In honor of #WorldPolioDay 2020, Dixie Sunrise Rotary partnered with Snow Canyon State Park and the SunRiver Hiking Club to work on trail cleanup at the park. Through decades of commitment and work by Rotary and their partners, more than 2.5 billion children have received oral polio vaccinations, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of David Nelson, St. George News

“One of the overlying themes during the meeting was why did we want to join Rotary to do a veterans project,” Nelson said. “My thought was because of Rotary’s resources and the contacts that they have established already.”

Many service clubs often concentrate on one specific group. Nelson’s vision is to meet the needs of all veterans from any branch, whether they are young or old, Vietnam era or Iraq/Afghanistan, disabled, homeless or seeking access to often elusive community help programs.

“By carrying out service projects, our members take action to address the underlying causes of conflict, including poverty, discrimination, ethnic tension, lack of access to education and unequal distribution of resources,” Nelson said.

Retired United States Navy Cmdr. Doug Graham has been appointed as chairperson of the Veterans Rotary Club Formation Committee.

As a military intelligence officer, organizational skills are Graham’s forte.

“There’s a number of things to get this club going,” he said. “Getting people interested in joining is the first item of business then forming a plan on what everyone wants to do is next.”

Graham’s vision is to backfill the needs not being met by other service organizations.

“My firm belief is – and I have some experience – all veterans are not without need,” he said. “We will be looking for things to do to help out where we can. The goal is to augment what is already being done at organizations such as the Marine Corps League and the Vietnam Veterans Association … as well as coming up with ways to help that aren’t being done at the local level.”

“We’ll look at our options and prioritize where our efforts can best be utilized,” Graham said. “I think we are going to find some interesting things and important needs to be filled.”

One idea being kicked around is to help shut-in or isolated veterans.

“We know that some may not be able to contact friends they’ve made before or they may not have family visiting them,” Graham added. “We could supplement that need. It sounds like a minor thing, but for somebody that doesn’t have anyone to talk to … this could be a huge deal.”

Paul Harris, a Chicago attorney and founder of the Rotary Club, photo location and date not specified | Photo courtesy David Nelson, St. George News

Rotary started in 1905 with the vision of Paul Harris, a Chicago attorney who formed the first club in his hometown. The goal was to bring together professionals from diverse backgrounds to develop lifelong friendships. Over time, Rotary’s mission has become more of a humanitarian-based service club.

Rotary International is made up of 33,000 clubs located in more than 200 countries and geographical areas, forming a global network of 1.2 million business and professional leaders who volunteer their time and talents to make a difference in people’s lives.

“We can’t do it all,” Graham said. “But, we are going to try to make an impact and make one as quickly as possible.”

The goal is to have the local veterans Rotary Club up and running by March.

For more information on Southern Utah’s efforts to form a veterans Rotary Club call 435-773-4212 or email David Nelson at [email protected].

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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