By Cody Neff
Beckley Rotary Club held its typical meeting at McBee’s Irish Pub Tuesday with the special purpose of welcoming a new member.
“Jerry Forster is coming here as president of the University in Charleston branch that’s here in Beckley,” club president Dr. William O’Brien said. “We want him in the club. We thought that an evening meeting to welcome Jerry would be great.”
Beckley Rotary is a community service organization that has its name on several projects around the region that range from highway cleanup to sports facilities.
“We built one of the soccer fields out at the (YMCA) soccer complex,” O’Brien said. “We built the Freedom Skate Park, too. We support The Salvation Army and usually set the record for fundraising at Christmas time. We have two weekends just before Christmas where we cover nine different sites and raise a lot of money for The Salvation Army. We support a number of charities and civic groups. It’s a very active club. It’s going to be even more active in the coming year.”
O’Brien says education is a large priority for Rotary as it moves into the new school year.
“My big goal is that I’m going to be teaching a history class for high school students in all five high schools in Raleigh County,” O’Brien said. “The Rotary Club has agreed to pay half the tuition of every student who registers for it. It’s going to be sponsored by the University of Charleston, who will offer the credit.
“I have a teacher in each of the five high schools that I’m going to be working with. It’ll be a yearlong course. We’re going to start that in September and it’s going to run up until May.”
The course is designed to be a college-prep course that will teach students to write, think critically and read critically, O’Brien says.
O’Brien says that increasing the group’s visibility will become an additional priority under his leadership.
“The Beckley Rotary Club is a major civic organization that has goals to become much more involved in this community,” O’Brien said. “In fact, one of our goals was to compile a list of charitable operations that we will approve for Rotarians. We’re talking about things like monitoring the hallways of schools and school buses and volunteering at hospitals. That’s kind of what we do.”
When the first Rotary Club was formed by attorney Paul Harris in Chicago, Ill., it was primarily a meeting group of businesses.
“The idea is that, in every community, there should be a Rotary Club,” O’Brien said. “There are more than 1.2 million Rotarians in the world. The Rotary is responsible for obliterating polio in the world. That’s its big claim to fame.”
Members of Beckley Rotary also plan to host a golf tournament to raise money for a charitable cause in the spring.
For more information about the Beckley Rotary Club, contact Eugene Harvey at 304-253-3342.