Meet the Rotary Club of Mission Viejo

Rotary members working together to pack backpacks full of school supplies for children in need. Rotary Club of Mission Viejo/Courtesy.

Taking ‘service above self’ to another level

“Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.” 

Rotary is a non-profit, secular and voluntary program that believes heavily in working together to create lasting change across the globe. Members work to take action on some of the world’s most persistent issues together through local clubs in communities worldwide. Rotary District 5320 comprises nearly 50 Rotary clubs in Southern California, from Long Beach to San Clemente. 

The organization lives by the motto “Service Above Self,” which emphasizes the importance of providing service to others, advancing world understanding, peace through a partnership with others and goodwill. Rotary also emphasizes the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion to promote different perspectives and views while helping our communities. The organization enables people of all different backgrounds to meet with others to spread a lasting change. 

Rotary values diversity and celebrates the contributions of people of all backgrounds, regardless of their age, ethnicity, race, color, abilities, religion, socioeconomic status, culture, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

The Rotary Club of Mission Viejo would typically meet weekly at the Mission Viejo Country Club in the mornings and volunteer at special events throughout the month. However, COVID-19 has impacted the way Rotary works. The local group is currently meeting online through Zoom, where information is shared about upcoming volunteering opportunities.

“We recruit volunteers at meetings and through phone calls, making connections with those we know in order to reach more people,” said Steve Marsh, president of The Rotary Club of Mission Viejo. 

Marsh has been a Rotarian since 2002 in various cities but is now the president of The Rotary Club of Mission Viejo. He explains the different ways Rotary is making an effort to help its community, following guidelines put forth by the CDC. While Rotary would usually be meeting indoors and volunteering in larger groups of people, the club could find out ways to help the community while still being safe. 

One recent event involved the donation of school supplies to students in need while socially distanced in a small group and wearing face masks in an outdoor area. Rotary also organized a ‘Drive & Drop Food Drive’ to benefit South County Outreach, an organization helping to prevent hunger and homelessness in South Orange County. 

Rotary is also involved with an international hunger relief non-profit organization called Rise Against Hunger. Members package bags of nutrient-rich foods dedicated to providing aid in developing nations around the world. This year, Rotary held the Rise Against Hunger volunteer event at the Norman P. Murray Community & Senior Center in Mission Viejo. 

“It was all socially distanced; it was incredible,” Marsh said. “We set up two parts of the Murray center, everyone socially distanced, wearing masks and gloves, following all the COVID-19 protocols.”

Marsh also explains how the Rotary Club of Mission Viejo partners with Rotary Clubs worldwide that help provide resources to other countries. For example, the club partners with Rotary Clubs in India, currently working on water and sanitation projects. Rotary is also working on dental clinics in the Philippines as well as partnering with orphanages near Ensenada. 

Rotary International is also very involved with the eradication of Polio around the world. With resources and ways to help on their website, Rotary emphasizes ending Polio altogether. 

Club Secretary Heidi Larkin-Reed has been in Rotary for over 30 years, joining when women were first able to join Rotary in the 1980s. She explains how Rotary has helped her grow both professionally and personally. 

“It helped me understand how to coordinate and work with volunteers,” Larkin-Reed said. “It helped me understand how to bring various community members together in order to get a project done.”

Rotary is an organization that promotes teamwork with others to create lasting change together. Larkin-Reed shares that Rotary has allowed her to expand her volunteering flexibility and her understanding of others. 

“As you get to know people in your community, you get to pull all these resources together to solve community problems,” she said. 

College students can become involved with Rotary through Rotaract clubs dedicated to young professionals over 18-years-old. Rotaract clubs allow their members to learn valuable leadership and professional skills through teamwork and service with peers. 

“We’re not just trying to get members,” Marsh said. “We’re trying to build a pipeline of mentoring, vision and a service mindset.”