Living Democracy

Roanoke Rotary Club a Model of 'Service Above Self"

Living Democracy Student Joy Porter in Roanoke, ALIf I had to distill my summer in Roanoke to a single, predominant theme, it would be this: ‘a community is at its best when its citizens come together to make their town a better place.’ This is a credo I have heard over and over again as I talk to varied Roanokians about their civic lives and about the civic health of Roanoke and Randolph County, whether in church on Sunday or in a soup kitchen on Thursday nights. Over and over again I see instances of committed citizens coming together in myriad ways to give back to a community that has loved and nurtured them over the years, as they grew up and then as they raised families of their own.

One of the longest-standing formal organizations in Roanoke committed to public service is the Rotary Club. Part of a larger national organization, Rotary Club 4052 will celebrate its 78th anniversary in Roanoke on Tuesday, June 30th. Since its inception in 1937, the Roanoke chapter has been an exemplar of Rotary International’s official mottos—‘Service Above Self’ and ‘One Profits Most Who Serves Best.’ Indeed, at the meeting I attended, Roanoke’s chapter was being honored by a district representative for its superlative service as it was presented with awards such as ‘Superior Membership Growth in the Region,’ ‘Superior Sustainability of Club Membership,’ commendations for its exceptional support of local high school civic clubs like Interact, as well as a citation of their outstanding service from the president of Rotary International.

David Denton, a local Certified Public Accountant and longtime Rotarian, noted that Roanoke’s dedication to public service is interwoven in the fabric of the town’s character. “I do believe that service above self—which is our motto— is a good way to live life. I’ve done it my whole life, all the way back to being involved in groups like Key Club in high school,” he said. Most of the other Rotarians have similarly had long histories of commitment to civic activity, he added.

Roanoke's Main Street TheatreSuch a committed group of citizens can accomplish some pretty amazing things. When asked about his proudest moment as a member of the Rotary Club, Denton recalled their work on Kids Town, a local play area built and supported by Rotary, and the Main Street Theatre, a theater downtown that was recently renovated and refurbished under the direction of the Rotary Club. “These two projects were really important to us because they were things that Roanoke didn’t have but needed. Both projects, especially the theater, are centerpieces in town and it was a Rotarian that made the push for the downtown revitalization,” he said. Denton remarked that Kids Town is close to his heart because it was a culmination of the hard work of many Roanoke citizens: “Kids Town was a $125,000 project, which we helped raise, that was completed in a week. We had three hundred people pitching in. Three hundred. Cutting the ribbon on the day we finished Kids Town and seeing the kids rush in— that’s something I’ll never forget.”

More than just a civic club, Rotary represents something very fundamental about the way that Roanoke operates— with confluent effort and an eye to the needs of the community. “For us, Rotary gives the citizens of Roanoke a way to give back. That’s what it’s all about. The meetings and programs are fun, but the main point is to serve the city,” Denton said. “What we’ve done in all our years here and what we’ll continue to do in the years to come is to identify Roanoke’s needs and then fill them. That’s what we’re here for.”

By Joy Porter
Last Updated: July 07, 2015