The Midlothian Rotary Club received a message Tuesday from its newly appointed District Governor on his vision for Rotary.
5810 District Governor Ean Sullivan, who was joined by Assistant Governor Bob Talbot, spoke to Midlothian Rotarians about his motto for the year, “Engage Rotary, Change Lives.” Sullivan explained that when he first joined Rotary, he was cynical about the service organization's large scale and international projects.
“I didn't know much about Rotary other than my local club,” he said. “I was content to just attend the weekly meetings. I did get involved as the bulletin editor, which allowed me to see all of the impact our club was having in the community.”
After serving as the bulletin editor, Sullivan said he was tapped to be the next year's treasurer, a position that puts Rotarians on the path to serving as president of the club.
“The district governor at the time asked me come be his communications chair, and I said that wasn't something I really wanted to do,” he said. “But old Herb (past district governor) had special hearing aids that kept him from hearing people say 'no'. I ended up supporting Herb as the communications chair and served on the annual conference committee that year.”
The conference was held in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico to serve as a getaway conference location and vacation for Rotarians attending the event. Thought Sullivan said the conference wouldn't be complete without a service project, so it wasn't just a vacation.
“We had connected with a school there, so we decided we would collect school supplies to take and paint the whole school while we were down there,” Sullivan said. “I remember standing there painting in a narrow hallway with Don (founding owner of the Dallas Mavericks) and Linda Carter to my right, another Rotarian on my left and a parent from the school was crawling along painting the baseboard underneath us. I still have my Rotary badge from that trip, it has paint on it, but it's like a badge of honor. That day the cynic in me started to waiver.”
After handing out school supplies to all of the smiling students, local Rotarians took the group to show them another school further away from the city. All 211 Rotarians boarded a bus and were shuttled out into the “jungle,” Sullivan said.
“We pulled up to this school, if you could call it that; it was more like a barn with three metal walls, a dirt floor, no bathroom and one running facet that was not potable,” he said. “All of the kids smiled and we handed out the remaining school supplies, but as we boarded our air conditioned bus to head back to our vacation; I felt troubled.”
Sullivan told of one of the Rotarians standing up at the conference the next day and telling all of the others that he couldn't sleep after seeing the school in the jungle.
“He said, 'any of those kids could have been my grandkids. We have to do something for these children, I believe we should build them a school,” Sullivan said. “I was the first one to stand up and pledge a $1,000 for the project.”
He said the Rotarians quickly pooled together $9,600 that night and Don Carter said that he would make a $10,000 match. Sullivan said they quickly got up to that $10,000 mark and Don pledged $15,000.”
The organization ultimately raised $67,000 to build the school, Sullivan said the cynic in him didn't feel right about sending $67,000 to the local Rotarians to build the school.
“When they only spent $60,000 to build the school... and they sent the $7,000 back to us and said 'do it again. Go spend this somewhere else to build another school,'” Sullivan said. “That day the cynic in me died.”
He closed his speech at the Rotary club meeting by encouraging all of the Rotarians present to not only serve their local club, but to jump for those opportunities to serve as Rotarians outside the club walls.
Sullivan said it was only when he reached outside the club that he truly experienced what makes Rotary an amazing organization.