The rewards of membership

Locals join Rotary Clubs to help others at home and abroad By Paige Langenderfer

No matter their location or club, Rotarians around the world unite in their dedication to one simple creed: “Service above self.” Since forming in 1905 in Chicago, Rotary International has grown to include approximately 1.2 million members and 33,000 clubs in more than 200 countries. Three of those clubs have made their homes on the southside of Indianapolis.  

These local clubs, the Franklin Rotary Club, the Greenwood/White River Rotary Club and the Greenwood Rotary Club, are made up of business and professional leaders who volunteer to provide humanitarian services to their local communities and the world. Their area of focus for each project — which can include health care, food security, job training and youth development — depends on current needs in the community and around the globe. 

A Call to Help

While growing up, Loren Snyder saw his father and his grandfathers working to help others as members of a Rotary Club. Snyder, like his predecessors, felt a call to contribute to his community, and he, too, eventually became a Rotarian. “The amount of time and money Rotarians give back to their communities and the world is daunting,” says Snyder, who today serves as the Franklin Rotary Club president. “Our community and world are a much better place because of the work Rotarians do daily.”

Thanks to the efforts of members like Snyder, the Franklin Rotary Club, which was founded in 1919, has contributed to numerous community causes over the years, including American Legion, Franklin Heritage, Franklin Symphonic Council, Habitat for Humanity, Riley Cheer Guild and Johnson County Historical Society. In 2013 alone, Snyder says, the Franklin club donated approximately $40,000 to local and international causes. 

“We support many local organizations, and it varies by the community needs year to year,” he explains. “Our community and world truly do step up when presented with challenges and issues. There is no question there is love and grace to mankind throughout our world.”

The club’s largest annual fundraiser, says Karen Buckler, Franklin Rotary secretary, is the Jim Rhoades Memorial Hog Roast, which takes place on the first Thursday after Thanksgiving each year at the Johnson County Fairgrounds. Proceeds from the free-will offering event are split evenly between the Good Cheer Fund and the Interchurch Food Pantry. The club donated $10,000 to organization from the 2013 event.

Rhoades, a Franklin Rotary member, a Johnson County commissioner and owner of Rhoades True Value Hardware in Franklin, had “wanted to host an event that would raise money for the hungry during the holidays and came up with the idea of a hog roast,” Buckler explains. “When he passed away in 2005, Franklin Rotary took over the event.”

The hog roast, she says, is characteristic of all the projects the club takes on. “Rotary is truly a service organization,” she says. “It services locally, nationally and worldwide. I joined Rotary because I wanted to be part of an organization that touches and benefits so many people.”

Franklin Rotary Club Meetings: Noon on Tuesdays at Franklin College Club President: Loren Snyder Causes Supported: Urban Forest (Franklin), Fast Track, Girls Inc., Boys and Girls Club of Franklin, Franklin Study Connections, Operation Bundle Up and more. Information:

Making a Difference

Founded in 2003, the Greenwood/White River Rotary Club is relatively new to the Rotary scene, but because of the efforts of its 25 members, the group has had a big impact around the world, and it has received worldwide recognition for it. 

The club contributes to several local programs, like Operation Bundle Up and Johnson County Senior Services, but its mission, according to the club’s website, is about so much more. The group aligns itself with the larger Rotary organization’s goals of providing humanitarian service, encouraging high ethical standards in all vocations and helping build goodwill and peace in the world. 

The club helped to install water systems in Honduras in 2012, for instance, which earned it widespread recognition for its efforts. Named one of the top three Rotary Clubs in the world in its size category, the group received the 2011-2012 Rotary International Presidential Citation Award at the Rotary International Convention in Bangkok.

“That was a really big honor for us,” says Charles Miller, club president. 

Miller says he joined the group “because the people I knew were involved were making a difference, and I wanted to be a part of that.” But being a member has even more benefits than just helping others. It’s fun, too, Miller says.

While membership comes by invitation only, he encourages anyone with interest to visit a club meeting to learn more. “We welcome anyone,” Miller explains. “We have scheduled speakers and agendas for each week. If you really want to make a difference, (Rotary) is a great avenue in which to do that. We help people locally, nationally and internationally. We have fun while making a difference.”

Greenwood / White River Rotary Club Meetings: 6:30 a.m. Wednesdays at Dye’s Walk Country Club in Greenwood Club President: Charles Miller Causes Supported: Operation Bundle Up, YMCA summer programs, Johnson County Senior Services and more.  Information:

Here and Abroad

Fifty-three members make up the Greenwood Rotary Club, which was founded in 1965 and contributes to causes and organizations like Kids Against Hunger, Operation Bundle Up, Interchurch Food Pantry and many more. 

About four years ago, the club began hosting an annual magic show that, over the years, has raised approximately $20,000 for Kids Against Hunger, an organization that ships highly nutritious meals to local and overseas food pantries.

Greenwood Rotary also partners with Greenwood/White River Rotary to host the Rotary Scholarship Golf Outing at Dye’s Walk Country Club, held each year in May. Proceeds from the event provide scholarships, up to $1,000 per year for four years, for local college-bound students from Greenwood, Whiteland and Center Grove. 

The group also hosts an annual charity auction, which benefits Polio Plus, the International Rotary Club’s effort to rid the disease from every country in the world.

But the Greenwood group’s project that makes club President Tom Vander Luitgaren most proud is the Ugandan Water Project, which involved the construction of water tanks and pumps in Muira Village, Uganda. “Previously, the village lacked running water, and water-borne diseases ravaged the village of approximately 1,500 families,” Vander Luitgaren explains. “Before the water project, women and children walked several hours a day to fill large buckets with water from a stream used by people and animals alike for all of their daily needs. Now, the villagers have clean water.”

Greenwood Rotary Club Meetings: Noon on Mondays at JB’s Express Club President: Tom Vander Luitgaren Causes Supported: Kids Against Hunger, Ugandan Water Project, Operation Bundle Up, Interchurch Food Pantry Information: