By Cindy Brookshire, Contributing Writer
When Manassas psychiatrist Dr. Nina Woodside invited dentist Dr. Elaine Sours to join the Rotary Club of Manassas in 1991, Dr. Sours was surprised. “I thought it was all male,” she replied. “I’m not a ground-breaker.” Rotary, known as the world’s ﬁrst volunteer service organization, had opened its membership to women only four years earlier.
Dr. Woodside assured her that a shared acquaintance, designer Barbara Bateman, was also a member and Dr. Sours wouldn’t be alone. Twenty-two years later, Dr. Woodside and Bateman, now both deceased, are renowned for their Rotary work, and Dr. Sours remains a club member. She was Manassas Rotarian of the Year in 2002. In 2005, as club president, she attended the organization’s annual international convention in Chicago where Rotary celebrated its 100th anniversary.
“Rotary gives me an avenue to give back to my community. I can connect with other professionals, work with young people, and contribute to global projects,” explained Dr. Sours. “I use my skills to help other people. It is unique friendships and great programs that’s kept me there for so many years.”
Roots of World’s First Service Organization
Rotary was founded in 1905 by Chicago attorney Paul Harris, who gathered three professional friends for fellowship. The group rotated meetings at each other’s offices—thus, the name. As the organization grew, members expanded beyond fellowship to serving the community’s needs.
Now known as Rotary International, the organization has grown to a global force for good. Organized into local clubs, Rotary International includes more than 1.2 million members in 200 countries. Rotarians focus on:
1. Peace and conﬂict prevention/resolution.
2. Disease prevention and treatment.
3. Water and sanitation.
4. Maternal and child health.
5. Basic education and literacy.
6. Economic and community development.
In May at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, global health ministers praised progress achieved last year in Rotary International’s signature project, eradication of polio. The disease is at its lowest levels ever around the world.
Rotary in Prince William
Rotary has ﬁve clubs and nearly 200 members in Prince William, according to Rotary International Assistant District Governor Victor Evans, assigned to Prince William. “Our members represent the area’s diversity and all are committed to our motto of ‘Service above Self ’ to improve the quality of life for people both locally and internationally,” he said.
Rotary supports the community with hands-on projects and fundraising for a number of local nonproﬁt organizations, Evans said. These include ACTS (Action in Community through Service), PACE West (Positive Attitude and Commitment to Education), Prosperity House, SERVE (Securing Emergency Resources through Volunteer Efforts), Youth Orchestras of Prince William, Lake Ridge Fellowship House and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Greater Prince William. Rotary also donates to the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program and numerous national and international nonproﬁt organizations.
Positively Impacting Community Health
A signature event that brings together Rotary clubs of Bull Run, Gainesville-Haymarket and Manassas is the annual Children’s Wellness Festival, offering free health screenings to area youth. Manassas City Public Schools’ Health Advisory Board, Prince William County Public Schools’ Health Services and the Greater
Prince William Community Health Center are co-sponsors. The next festival is Oct. 12 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Metz Middle School in Manassas.
“We served over 300 children from all over Prince William last year who came through and were screened for everything from eye, hearing and dental exams to blood sugar, blood pressure, body weight, nutrition and ﬁtness,” said Dr. Sours. “It’s just a general good way to boost the health of the community.”
Other Prince William Rotary chapters are Lake Ridge and Woodbridge clubs.
Membership Reflects Community Diversity
Rotary members reﬂect Prince William’s professionally and culturally diverse community and range in age from young professionals to the retired. Rotary offers “good friends and lifelong professional ties,” Dr. Sours said.
Rotary’s ﬁve local clubs jointly host quarterly networking events after business hours. The purpose: to meet fellow Prince William area Rotary members and to invite potential new members and the community-minded to learn more about Rotary in a social atmosphere, she said.
Additionally, each club hosts its own weekly, one-hour meeting, where members conduct club business and enjoy a meal together and fellowship. Meetings often include a program on one of a wide range of topics.
This April, each of the Prince William clubs were “family hosts” to the Rotary Foundation’s Group Study Exchange (GSE) team of ﬁve Australian police officers. The GSE program provides travel grants to teams of young professionals to visit other countries and observe how their vocations are practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships and exchange ideas. The Rotary Foundation is a nonproﬁt corporation that supports the eﬀorts of Rotary International to achieve world understanding and peace through international exchange programs.
Experiencing the Joy of Service
For area college students, “Rotaract” clubs exist at Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University. There are also “Rotary Interact” clubs at Osbourn High School in Manassas and at Osbourn Park, Battleﬁeld and Patriot high schools in Prince William County.
“Young people recognize the joy of community service, as well as good fellowship. These are really good people who are in these clubs,” Dr. Sours said.
Young and older members alike participate in local environmental projects, including Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition’s annual Upper Occoquan River Cleanup, held April 13 this year. “It’s a ball going out on the Occoquan River Cleanup. We walk the river banks with our pickup sticks and garbage bags, and it’s amazing how much stuff we pull out. We generally laugh, and always, somebody falls in. It’s just good clean fun while you’re helping the community and having a good time at the same time,” Dr. Sours said.
Cindy Brookshire coordinates Write by the Rails, the Prince William chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, and can be reached at email@example.com.
GET INVOLVED Each of the five Rotary clubs in Prince William meet weekly and welcome new members. Meetings, which are one hour, include fellowship and club business time, a meal and often a program:
1. Bull Run: Tuesdays at 7:30 a.m. at City Tavern Grille, 9405 Main Street, Manassas. www.bullrunrotary.org
2. Gainesville-Haymarket: Wednesdays at 7:30 a.m. at Eggspectation®, 8058 Crescent Park Drive, Gainesville. www.gh-rotary.org
3. Lake Ridge: Wednesdays at 7:30 a.m. in Westminster at Lake Ridge, 12191 Clipper Drive. www.lakeridgerotary.org
4. Manassas: Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m. at City Tavern Grille, 9405 Main Street, Manassas. www.manassasrotary.org
5. Woodbridge: Thursdays at 12:15 p.m. in Westminster at Lake Ridge, 12191 Clipper Drive. www.woodbridgerotaryclub.org