Rotary International (www.rotary.org) is a worldwide organization with 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs worldwide. Members volunteer and fundraise to support education, literacy, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, and eradicate polio to their own communities and worldwide.
The Cobourg Rotary Club, sponsored by the Montreal Rotary Club, was founded in 1921. Once it became established it began raising money to help various local projects. In the early decades it provided funding and support for the James Cockburn Park, supported the Crippled Children's' Treatment Centre in Peterborough and provided scholarships and prizes for local schools. Since 1971 it has supported Junior Achievement where students learn about the business world. It also supported the Cobourg Memorial Arena and tennis courts at Sinclair Street and Coverdale.
The money to support these projects was raised from events like carnivals, trade fairs, car and camper raffles, sponsoring concerts, stag nights, walkathons and minstrel shows. Beginning in the nineties the club began to develop more innovative fundraising initiatives.
The Sportsman Night Gourmet Dinner and Auction began as a way to beat the winter blahs; it was better than selling peanuts and provided a good excuse for members to go hunting. So the dinner consisted of venison, moose or salmon, and anything else members could shoot or catch. Now, tastes have evolved towards haute cuisine with a gourmet dinner prepared by master chefs and a grand auction that may include cars, dream vacations along with hundreds of other items.
The big summer event is the Waterfront Festival held over the Canada Day weekend. This began in Canada's centennial year as a small local craft show and each year it expanded by adding artists, music and entertainment until 1992 when the organizers asked Rotary to take it on. Jointly hosted with the Cobourg Lions Club, it is now the leading outdoor arts and craft festival in Ontario with over 200 exhibitors include sculptors, glass artists, weavers, painters, photographers, potters, wrought iron artists, wood carvers, clothing designers, folk artists, and jewellery designers.
The newest fundraiser, which began in 2007, is the Rotary RibFest. Held in mid August in Victoria Park, it has a midway and a music and food festival, with the food provided by travelling Rib Teams from Canada and the United States.
These events raise somewhat over $200,000 a year. With so much money to give away the club has developed careful ways to select and evaluate worthy projects to support. This is done though a committee structure.
Some committees supports local needs, while another supports international needs:
- The Projects and Community Events committee supports major projects and requests for help, for instance $500,000 was provided to the Northumberland Hills Hospital, $300,000 has been pledged to the Cobourg Community Centre, donations of a several thousand dollars have been made to help other organization.
- The Special Needs committee provides financial assistance to needy individuals and or families for such things as medication, accessibility devices.
- Youth Service organizes Camp Enterprise where senior students, interested in learning business and leadership skills, hear from people talking about their businesses, play hands-on business simulation games and Negotiating a Collective Agreement.
- The New Generations Committee focuses on providing financial support for young people by subsidizing students who cannot afford class trips or developmental opportunities. They also provide scholarships and awards to local high schools including C. Gordon King Co-op Awards, Business Award, Rodger Harp Leadership Award, Science Award, Manufacturing Awards, the Chris Garrett Memorial Scholarship. It is also is involved with programs such as The Rotary Youth Leadership Award and the Economics of Staying in School.
- The Interact Committee co-ordinates and liaises with the Interact Club within schools, to provide guidance or any assistance to students. It also encourages joint activities and events within the Rotary Club. The school's Interact executive are encouraged to attend and report on their activities at Rotary meetings.
- The Foundation Committee is charged with raising funds for and promoting awareness of the Rotary Foundation's mission - to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty.
- The World Community Service Committee promotes goodwill and international understanding by supporting international projects that provide benefit to individuals or collective on a local scale. The Committee often acts in partnership with other organizations applies for matching or supplemental grants, to optimize the Club's donations. They respond to Disaster Relief, Polio Plus, Donations-in-Kind and Sleeping Children Around the World. Successful projects have included staffing money for a Hospice project in Malawi, water projects, food production, sanitation, literacy grants and educational support. Rotary members participate in sweat equity projects and take part in medical missions.
- The International Youth Exchange Committee offers young people an opportunity to study and learn about the culture of other countries. It conducts the selection process for outbound students and arranges host and itineraries for inbound students.