By Emily Koerner, a former Interactor, native of Toms River, New Jersey, and student at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, USA

I often wonder what other people think about when they hear the word “Rotarian.”

Since I was about 10 years old, I attended many service events with my dad (a member and past president of the Central Ocean Rotary Club in Toms River, New Jersey). The members welcomed me with open arms, laughs, and, of course, a ton of work to be done.

I learned about camaraderie and good work ethic at a young age. I also learned not every family was like my own. Not everyone has my abilities, my health, or my amazing parents. Not everyone has food at their table, a steady job, or a home. But together, the Rotarians work hard to extend a helping hand to anyone struggling to lift them up.

For me, Rotarian is a synonym for family.

For over ten years, I’ve attended lunch meetings and listened to their guest speakers and their discussions about the future for the club. We’ve painted houses, planted dune grass, auctioned gift baskets, and much more. My Rotary club faced the challenges of gaining new members, losing old ones, and enduring Hurricane Sandy. However, they’ve always grown and never failed to help those in need.

They refuse to give up caring for others as well as each other.

Just like Rotary, I, too, have grown the past decade. I joined community service groups throughout middle school, high school, and my university. I was president of my Interact club.  I have spent ten amazing days at a girls’ orphanage in Mexico City. My Rotarian family has given me hope for the future and inspiration to push myself every day. I have no other way to repay them for their influence and support except to lead my life as a true Rotarian would.

My request for other Rotary clubs is to reach out to children or teenagers and encourage them to volunteer or work alongside you. Perhaps they will be a future member. Perhaps they won’t. But the experiences of witnessing your passion and compassion for others will leave a mark and last a lifetime.

Empower young people in your community — sponsor an Interact Club. Find more information about providing a safe and secure environment for all youth involved in Rotary programs and activities in the Rotary Youth Protection Guide.

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