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Birmingham Rotary to ramp up efforts in 2020

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published December 16, 2019

 Members of the Birmingham Rotary Club prepare dinner for guests at the Hope Warming Center in Pontiac Nov. 19.

Members of the Birmingham Rotary Club prepare dinner for guests at the Hope Warming Center in Pontiac Nov. 19.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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BIRMINGHAM — You might’ve seen them standing at the corner of Old Woodward Avenue and Maple Road last weekend ringing the famous bell to collect donations for The Salvation Army.

Maybe you saw them heading to the Hope Warming Center in Pontiac to prepare and serve dinner for hungry neighbors.

Or maybe the name sounds familiar because you’ve seen their logo outside of the community room they endowed at the Baldwin Public Library.

The point is, if there’s something good happening in this community — something that’s helping people — there’s a good chance the Birmingham Rotary Club is involved somehow.

During the holidays, when so many people are inspired to give to each other and to those in need, the Rotary Club locally and internationally will continue its mission to put “service over self” every day of the year.

“We see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change across the globe, in communities and in ourselves,” said John Schrot, president of the Birmingham Rotary Club.

For well over 100 years, the Rotary — founded in Chicago to connect professionals with service opportunities — has taken on a number of projects, from working to eradicate polio to funding new wells in Uganda.

A fun fact: The name Rotary came from the founders’ practice of hosting meetings at members’ places of business in rotation.

So many years later, the club is still going strong with 1.2 million members globally. Schrot said they’re always looking for new opportunities to lend a hand, raise a few dollars and help make their neighborhood a better place.

“The club is made up of some outstanding people. The Birmingham city manager is a member, the superintendent of Birmingham Public Schools,” he said. “Every month we provide food and personnel to serve (a dinner) at the Hope Warming Center. We also do a weekly literacy reading at a school in Pontiac. In April, we clean up Maple Road on both sides of the road, from Cranbrook to Lahser. That’s a family activity. In May, we provide the wreath and take part in the Memorial Day ceremony for the soldiers in downtown Birmingham.”

The warming center is an important part of the group’s efforts during the winter months, and in addition to serving dinners for homeless and hungry people, the Rotary grants funds to the organization to upgrade kitchen equipment, replace bedding and other housekeeping needs.

“We look to partner with other organizations in the community, but the Hope Warming Center is a long-term commitment we’ve made,” Schrot said. “The individuals that are the recipients of the meal, young and old, they’re so grateful. The center is so close to us, and there is such a dichotomy between the communities. I think that experience, for a lot of Rotarians, is why they joined the Rotary.”

The Hope Warming Center consists of two parts: a low-barrier adult shelter, meaning those in need don’t need to meet sobriety or criminal background check standards to get help; and a recovery center for those recently released from hospital treatment who might benefit from additional care.

In addition to shelter from the cold and a warm meal, Hope aims to connect its clients to resources to resolve homelessness: medical services, employment help, veteran services, domestic violence intervention, housing initiatives and so on.

“The Birmingham Rotary has been just an amazing support to the people we serve,” said Elizabeth Kelly, the CEO of Hope Hospitality and Hope Warming Center Inc. “Whether they’re serving meals or providing us with things to maintain the quality of the shelter, it all goes to making sure the people we serve have their basic needs met.”

In the coming year, along with annual projects, the club plans to devote more attention to issues concerning mental health in the community. Once a month, Schrot said, they plan to bring in a professional to speak on mental health during their weekly luncheon meeting.

This season, those who want to help the Birmingham Rotary Club continue its mission can do so with donations, of course. But more importantly, Schrot said, the organization would love to grow its membership and bring more hands on deck.

“I believe first and foremost we would like to have their personal involvement, because what that does is it results in our being stronger,” he explained. “Then, it also means creating lasting change for each Rotarian. In other words, by becoming a Rotarian, you associate yourself with others who are committed to service. I believe that changes you for the better.”

To learn more about the Birmingham Rotary Club, visit birminghamrotary.org.

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