When Mike Griffin moved to Cambria seven years ago, he had been in Rotary in Bakersfield for many years. He knew — or thought he knew — what Rotary was all about.
“What I found here at the Rotary Club of Cambria went far beyond my experience up to that time,” said Griffin, who took office as the new club president in July.
“Perhaps it’s because of the size of the town, but you see Rotary’s hand in everything good here – from helping to fund the new library to our newest project at Camp Ocean Pines,” said Griffin.
“All it takes is a drive through town to see the Rotary emblem on the bus shelters, on the big clock at the Cambria Historical Society and now we’re involved in the Peace Garden at the Veterans (Memorial Building).”
Griffin was most impressed, however, with members who come out time and time again to help with projects. For example, soon after his arrival in town, he joined a group that cleans up trash along Highway 1 every third Saturday of the month.
“It’s not that they do a one-time thing, get some praise and then forget about it,” he added. “It’s the very meaning of the Rotary motto ‘Service Above Self.’ These people are out there every month, all year long, some of them for many years now. And not a lot of people even know about it.”
Though the ongoing clean-up work may go unsung, the energy and momentum of the club are being noticed by Rotarians throughout the area. At the district level — which encompasses more than 200 clubs and 4,300 members — the club is a shining testament to its members.
For its work over the past 12 months, the club was named “Best Medium-Size Club” in the entire district — that includes Ventura to the south and Bakersfield to the east. The commemorative bell awarded to the club sits at the front podium at every meeting, reminding Griffin that his work is just beginning.
“My work is cut out for me,” said Griffin, who succeeded Greg Sanders. “Greg did such an outstanding job. I feel like I’m swimming as fast as I can just to stay on top of things. And the membership is always thinking of new projects to take on.”
Some of those projects extend into the international scene. What people know about local Rotary is just a fraction of the activity taking place. A big push for Griffin is the “End Polio Now” campaign, which just got an influx of funding and attention from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation is matching three to one for every dollar raised by Rotary.
“Polio is going to be eliminated from the world in my lifetime,” said Griffin. “That’s a very big deal.”
The Rotary Club of Cambria is working with Rotarians in other countries on life-changing initiatives such as water and sewage treatment projects in Nigeria and Africa.
“It’s that old adage about helping people help themselves,” said Griffin. “We work with the clubs in the countries where the help is needed. Then, when we leave, they continue with the good work. It’s all about building community.”
Julia M. Rice is co-chairman of the Rotary Club of Cambrias Viva fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 12. Event and raffle tickets are available now at www.cambriarotary.org and at the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, 767 Main St.