Nine members of the Rotary Club of Roundhay accepted an invitation to visit the Rotary Club of Elland to hear one of the Trustees of the Rotary Foundation, Bryn Styles.
The event was well attended, with our club the largest contingent of visitors, and therefore entirely fitting that I won the raffle prize of a bottle of cognac. The raffle raised £206.50 [someone not understanding that tickets cost £1 each]. Giving in to peer pressure, I have agreed that the brandy will be our raffle prize at tonight’s Desert Island Discs evening. Note: in view of the potential gain, members are urged to invest in 2 raffle tickets at 50p each this week.
Bryn is a member of the Rotary Club of Barrie-Huronia in Ontario, Canada, and he and his wife Randy spend a lot of time travelling the world on behalf of the Foundation. The flyer announcing the event described Bryn as ‘a Rotarian since 1986, RI Director 2012-2014, Council on Legislation representative, RI President’s representative, regional Rotary Foundation Co-ordinator, and District Governor. Bryn Styles received RI’s Service Above Self Award and The Rotary Foundation’s Citation for Meritorious Service.’
Alan Jagger, who I hope is a friend of Bryn’s, simply introduced him as ‘like a lighthouse in the Pennines – bright but useless’. In fact Bryn gave a stimulating and informative speech.
He explained the role of trustee as being to raise, invest and spend the funds of the Foundation. On raising funds, he stressed the advantage Rotary has in being able to do good on the ground in areas where government and religious groups are not trusted.
Refreshingly, whilst eloquently extolling the virtues of Rotary, Bryn also highlighted the mistake made historically by Rotary International in refusing to permit women to be Rotarians. I didn’t know that when in 1978 the Rotary Club of Duarte, California, USA, admitted women as members in violation of the RI Constitution, its membership in Rotary International was terminated. Over the next 9 years the Californian Club had to take RI all the way to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in 1987 that Rotary clubs may not exclude women from membership on the basis of gender. The rest is history.
According to Bryn another mistake we are making is complacency about membership generally. The story of Rotary from 1905 to 1990 was continuous growth: since then we have had decline, due to failure to adapt to changing demographics. He challenged us with this advice: if you’re doing things the same way after 2 years, be careful; if the same after 5 years, be suspicious; if the same after 10 years, throw it all out and start again. Something for our Club to ponder as we go through the Club Visioning process next February.
On a more optimistic note, Rotary does seem able to retain members. One Rotarian present at the meeting had joined the Rotary Club of Elland 58 years ago, and I was pleased to be introduced by Tony Jordan to the club’s webmaster, Con Cluskey, who some of us will remember from the early 60s as the lead singer of the Bachelors. [remember I Believe and Smile For Me Diane?]
Con told me he and his brother are still touring with the band.