By Emily Glory Peters
Reading the news these days can be a grim exercise—you never know what fresh bleak reality you’ll face. Some, understandably, may feel ill-equipped to do much to stop the carousel of social crises. “I’m just one person,” you may think. “What difference can I really make?”
When the first Rotary Club began in 1905, it tackled its own community challenges by starting small. With members “rotating” meeting spots from place to place, they formed friendships and ideas on how to transform their community for the better. Today, the Rotary has exploded into an international movement with more than 1.2 million members worldwide—including a devoted handful in Sierra Madre.
“Back in the day, Rotary International worked to reduce child polio and were even involved in getting the United Nations formed,” explains Joan Riback, the newest president of the Rotary Club of Sierra Madre. “But today, each Rotary Club can develop in whatever direction they want.”
When we spoke, Riback had just ended her first meeting as president—but as a longstanding “Rotarian” with an ultra-supportive club alongside her, she already has big plans.
“We’re focused on creating greater opportunities to serve not only the Sierra Madre community, but the greater San Gabriel Valley and even the country,” says Riback. One project she helped spearhead is Rotary Clubs’ Humanitarian STAR Awards, which recognize outstanding scientific contributions “with a humanitarian heart.”
“Awardees have included everyone from Nobel Prize winners to the co-founder of Wikipedia,” says Riback, noting that their contributions to society extend far beyond just Sierra Madre. With nominations for 2019 winners open now, Riback also hopes people will seek to spotlight local change-makers.
That spirit of community improvement still drives Rotary Club of Sierra Madre’s smaller projects—like the beautiful “pocket park” they sponsor in a little corner of Sierra Madre. To make life sweeter for their neighbors, everyone has to pitch in—something Riback refers to as “compassion in action.”
“One of the things I’ve asked everyone in the club is to think about what their passions are. If they could change anything in the world, what would that be?” says Riback. By joining their passions and talents together, she predicts her club will make an even more meaningful impact, both at home and abroad. In this way, the “how can I really make a difference?” question is laid to rest.
“In our world today, there’s definitely a segment of our society who seems to be lost in caring about what happens to their fellow human beings,” she says. “Yet on the other side there are others who are deeply concerned about what happens, and work hard to create activities and policies that really do help people in the world. Rotary International has given me a platform to connect with those people…it’s really a family working to make the world a better place.”
Rotary Club of Sierra Madre meets every Tuesday morning at 7:00 a.m. at Hart House Senior Center at Sierra Madre Memorial Park, 222 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. Meetings are open to any interested potential member. To learn more, contact Joan Riback at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow along on Facebook @rotaryclubofsierramadrecausa.