Written by Bethany Lerch
The best stories start at the very beginning. This story, my Rotary story, began four years ago…
I got rocked by Rotary in August 2009. I was standing outside my apartment on Oregon Street. I don’t remember what I was doing, only that it was sick hot out.
My phone rang. It was Richard, a professor from the Milwaukee area, someone with whom I had just interviewed for a Rotary scholarship.
“It’s Richard, from Mount Mary.”
“Oh, hi.” Here’s the part where he is going to tell me I failed. I sat on the steps and scrunched my eyes closed waiting for the fatal blow.
“We’ve selected you for the scholarship.”
“I’m sorry?” ohmigod. Why would you do that?
His voice became cloudy, and the cars on the street sounded fuzzy. When he said goodbye a short while later I called my dad bawling. He cried, too. His daughter was going to graduate school.
Just like that, my life changed. Because of Rotary. It changed many more times in my year abroad in the UK.
Rotary chapters in Oshkosh were curious about my experience in Scotland and, upon my return in fall 2011, invited me to their meetings. I met a number of people at those meetings, one of whom was John Hobbins. A few months later he zeroed in on me. “So, what do you know about Rotaract?”
“Not much,” I told him.
“That’s okay,” he said. And he’s been there every step of the way since.
With that, our curious journey began, and my life changed all over again with Rotaract
Jerry came first. Our first run-in to talk business was a memorable one. I remember trying hard to be professional while I described Rotaract, but an obscenity crept out. I covered my mouth and apologized. Jerry laughed and said he suffers from the same problem. Relief and good humor ensued.
With Jerry came Dan, a peer from law school. He and his wife Becky had just moved to the area. John invited the four of us to attend a chartering ceremony for the Fond du Lac Rotaract chapter. That’s when we added Joe Mann. The ball really got rolling after that.
November saw our first event, a Saturday morning at the food pantry (that actually started with bloodies.) I met Jena and Joe and Taylor that day. Our open meeting took place in December, when we went public with the whole gig. Enter Brandon and Michelle, Joe Walk (who has a different last name that none of us can spell) and Virginia.
Come January, we had full support from both Rotary chapters and were going full-steam ahead with monthly meetings and speakers, running events and invites to Rotary socials. Ours was a full plate and it remained a full one as we continued to grow with the help of Crystal, Candice, Ray and Oriane.
While we have a number of achievements to smile upon, the greatest, in my mind, was the fact that Rotaract Oshkosh went from brainchild to officially-recognized in approximately nine months. Less than one year. That’s all it took for us to tackle the project of growing a grassroots service organization for millennials in the Oshkosh area. To be clear, that’s – if I may – pretty damn baller.
That we have hosted and been hosted by so many area nonprofits continues to amaze me. You continue to amaze me. It has been a pleasure to be a part of your organization. Thank you for making me, I think, a better person.
For your future, I wish you that which you so beautifully wished me a few short days ago:
Follow your passion. Find what you’re looking for. (Stay out of trouble.) And, above all, find joy in all you do. Together.