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Rotary governor visits Frankfort

ROTARY VISIT: Rotary District Gov. Dale Basham, left, visited Frankfort on Thursday, stopping in to meet and hold a discussion with Frankfort Mayor Chris McBarnes (above with Frankfort Rotary Club President Richard Greeno looking on). Later, he spoke to the local membership at their weekly meeting, which occurs at noon each Thursday.

By ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

The Frankfort Rotary Club welcomed Rotary International District Gov. Dale Basham to its weekly club meeting at Arborwood on Thursday, with Basham and Frankfort Mayor Chris McBarnes taking time to share mutual admiration while he was in town.

“I can’t emphasize enough how crucial Rotary is in our community,” McBarnes said. “They help lives of everyday citizens in Frankfort. They are a force of positive good in the community and they are individuals that you can always count on.

“So having the governor visiting the city of Frankfort today just reaffirms how much of a partner the Rotarians are to the city of Frankfort and I’m very thankful for them,” he added.

The mayor extended an invite to Basham to attend the Hot Dog Festival in July, noting it will be the 25th anniversary for the festival. Basham noted the Frankfort Rotary Club has a special commemoration itself coming right around the corner with its 100th anniversary in April.

“It’s one of the very few 100 year clubs in Indiana,” he noted.

Basham’s visit on Thursday gave him a chance to see “the city and some of the Rotary projects going on” and help the club as it prepares to celebrate that centennial anniversary. He serves as governor this year for District 6560, which covers much of central Indiana.

“One of the things that Frankfort Rotary Club is doing is installing benches around the city, the downtown area,” Basham noted, which was funded in part by a Rotary district grant. “Nice, new benches for people to sit on.”

McBarnes recognized the vital part Rotary is taking in the Prairie Creek Park project in revitalizing the downtown.

“Rotary is a crucial member in Prairie Creek Park,” he said. “They are helping sponsor the Splash Pad and so the Rotary emblem will be in the middle of the Splash Pad, which will host thousands of children on an annual basis in the summer time.”

The mayor touted the Frankfort Rotary President Richard Greeno’s efforts in relation to the project and the community overall.

“The fact that Rotary stepped up, and Richard did a great job,” McBarnes told him. “You’ve got a Class A guy here as far as being an ambassador.”

Basham’s other focus during the visit was simply to show his appreciation for the efforts of local Rotarians.

“I’m here to thank all these great men and women, these great Rotarians, these great citizens of Frankfort for really caring about their community and doing all kinds of good things for Frankfort, Indiana,” he said. “Making it a great place to visit, but an even a better place to live.”

Both he and Greeno touted several other projects that the local chapter has done for the community.

Those include redoing and upkeep of the baseball diamond and tennis courts at the city park, which includes new bleachers for the tennis court and a new building for the diamond.

“The Rotary Club also restored that caboose right in the middle of the park,” Basham noted.

“We’ve refurbished the 1202 Caboose out at the park,” Greeno said. “You’ve got the new building out there and we keep the diamond up for the young kids to play on. ... Before they last rebuilt the fountain out there, we had rebuilt the fountain.”

Looking outside the city limits, Greeno says two causes Rotary has adopted that are important to him are clean water and eradicating polio.

“We talk about needing clean water overseas, (but) we need clean water right here in parts of our country in the United States,” he said. “We don’t realize that some of our people don’t have the things that they should have. Rotary is here to try to help do some of those things.

“And polio has been a big thing for Rotary International for many, many years. It’s something that we have almost stamped out across the world.”

Basham expounded on that point.

“It’s just three countries and in fact only 19 cases have been cited in 2018 in Afghanistan and only eight cases in Pakistan and no cases so far this year in Nigeria,” he said. “The watch list is down to just three countries and we’re down to that few cases of polio. Isn’t that amazing.”

Basham noted how Rotary International began to focus on the disease starting in the late 1970s, “but of course it’s been a focus for the group for many, many years during the horrific polio epidemic of the ‘40s and ‘50s in this country and worldwide.

“Rotary officially made it our cause to eradicate this disease,” he said, with the efforts reaping fruit. “It’s only the second time in the history of mankind where we are on the verge of eradicating a disease. Smallpox was the first one and now polio and this has been Rotary’s signature project since the early ‘80s officially.”

Basham noted Rotary has partnered with the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to raise money to bring eradication to completion.

The money for both local and other projects comes from a combination of dues, district grants and fundraisers, with the local chapter’s annual Italian buffet a main one locally.

“This project with the benches is a part of a district grant,” Basham said. “In our district, we raise money through dues that we donate to our Rotary Foundation and each year a portion of that foundation money comes back to the district and we’re able to partner with clubs like the Frankfort Rotary Club to help them do community projects like those benches.”

To keep Rotary thriving, each club needs a strong membership, with Greeno saying the Frankfort club has made in-roads with that currently with about 53 members.

“It’s been higher at different periods with the club, but we’re getting our membership back,” he said. “It’s like all clubs we’ve had to struggle and fight hard, but there’s a ton of members out there and all we’ve got to do is bring them in because once they find out about the Rotary story they get excited. It’s a very great story and I think we do a lot of good locally. That is one of the things I’m very proud of.”

Basham noted District 6560 which he serves has “about 2,300 members with 400 clubs all over central Indiana. … In fact, it’s one of the largest international service organizations in the world.”

He believes the draw for Rotary is “because people that want to give back to their community want to be a part of a service club and do good for people, doing good for the world. It attracts that kind of person to want to join, especially when you have such high profile projects in your town.”

The organization also has Interact clubs at high schools and Rotaract clubs at colleges to attract younger members, “so if children of Rotarians want to be a part of those projects to give back to high schools or colleges, they’ll say maybe, ‘Well I want to be a member of that Rotary Club and start or be a part of a high school club.’”

Those interested in joining the Frankfort club can contact Greeno at (765) 659-3467 or attend one of the weekly meetings at Arborwood, 100 Golf Preserve Lane in Frankfort, that occur each Thursday at noon.