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ROTARY: THE LONGEST-RUNNING SERVICE CLUB IN LONG BEACH

By Kathryn Wells

Photo Submitted by Rotary Club of Long Beach


Photo Above: Sumer Temple, incoming Chair of the Board for the Long Beach Chamber, surrounded by supportive fellow Rotarians at a recent Chamber event.


BEYOND THE SHADOWS: SHEDDING LIGHT ON ROTARY’S IMPACT

Growing up, I often heard about the Rotary Club, though never fully understood what it was all about. It seemed like a club for important people, but beyond that, details were sparse. I later learned that this aura of mystery wasn’t intentional; it simply stemmed from Rotarians’ modest approach to their work. They’re not in it for fame; they’re driven by a genuine desire to better their communities. So, when offered the chance to explore and write about the Rotary, I seized the opportunity, eager to uncover what truly lies at its heart.


PROMOTING LITERACY AND FEEDING THE FUTURE

For over a century, the Rotary Club of Long Beach has worked to better the lives of residents through community service initiatives. With nearly 250 members, Rotary supports impactful projects focused on literacy and food security. “Rotary is a professional service club where business owners and executives can give back through various service projects in their community,” explains club President Michelle Dobson.


One of Rotary’s earliest and most enduring efforts has been promoting literacy. In the club’s early years, they raised over $300,000 to establish the children’s reading room at the Billie Jean King Library. This space provided a welcoming environment to foster young readers. For decades, Rotary has also donated books through their Reading by Nine program. Led by Frank Nall for over 25 years, the program has distributed over half a million books to local schools. “I explain to everyone the number of books we bought last year and the literacy grants we provide to teachers,” says Dobson, emphasizing Rotary’s long-term commitment.


More recently, Rotary identified another pressing community need - food insecurity among students. Michelle recalls a pivotal club meeting where a speaker shared that “we have kids sleeping in their cars in parking lots and going hungry.” This inspired the creation of Feeding the Future, which provides backpacks of food for weekends. Now, Rotary is holding a gift card drive to assist families during school breaks. They are also exploring partnering with organizations like the Food Bank of Southern California to coordinate anti-hunger efforts.


For Michelle, Rotary’s work supporting literacy and basic needs is deeply personal. She recalls that her father was functionally illiterate until adulthood, inspiring her dedication to education initiatives. Additionally, when Michelle’s home burned down in 2020, “Rotary’s support showed how the organization supports members through difficult times.” Rotary is like a family, taking care of its own during crises.


Through the committed service of volunteers like Frank Nall and the club’s multi-generational focus on evolving to address emerging issues, Rotary has made a tremendous positive impact on Long Beach. Their efforts have directly improved the lives of thousands of residents by promoting literacy and alleviating food insecurity. Residents are encouraged to support Rotary’s continued work through donations of time, skills or funds. With dedicated members and flexible programming to meet shifting needs, Rotary will surely aid the community for many years to come. 


READY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE? 

Reach out to Rotary today and discover how you can contribute to building a better tomorrow. 


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