"Service Above Self" Defines Rotarians 7

Rotary Clubs throughout the world operate on the common foundation: Service Above Self.

For local Rotarians, this service has made a tremendous positive impact as members dedicate their lives to making a difference in their communities throughout the Conejo Valley.

The Rotary Club of Thousand Oaks, for example, continually supports the local food pantry, Manna, and is working on a $100,000+ grant for equipment in their new facility.

“Our club is amazing,” says Robert Bianchi, president of the Rotary Club of Thousand Oaks, comprising 132 members and founded in 1962.

“We are humbled by the impact we can make through Rotary International both locally and worldwide.”

Locally, the Rotary Club of Thousand Oaks provides school supplies annually to Conejo Valley schools and sponsors the Thousand Oaks High and La Reina High youth service Interact clubs. Thousand Oaks Rotarians also donate tens of thousands of dollars to the Southern California Special Olympics and sponsor 10 high school students annually to attend a youth leadership camp in Ojai.

On a global level, the Rotary Club of Thousand Oaks supports an orphanage and children’s cancer center in Tijuana and a school for young girls and farming programs in India. Members also recently completed a hearing aid program for children in Mexico.

“Our Rotary grant partners around the world have contributed to hundreds of thousands of dollars of grants written to benefit our local community,” Bianchi says.

He added that the ultimate goal of the Rotary Club of Thousand Oaks is simple: “To have fun and good fellowship amongst business leaders while donating our time, our gifts and our resources to benefit others in our local community and around the world.”

Other Rotary clubs in the Conejo Valley include the Rotary Club of Westlake Village Sunrise and the Rotary Club of Westlake Village, founded in 1972, and currently comprising 59 members.

“Our club does so much,” says Steve Kerrigan, club president.

Locally, for instance, “we deliver Meals on Wheels, collect for Manna, serve homeless meals, and raise funds that we give to Manna, Meals on Wheels, Conejo Valley Amateur Radio, KCLU, Our Community House of Hope, Healthcare for Homeless Animals, Cancer Support Community, Senior Concerns and more,” Kerrigan says.

On an international level, the Rotary Club of Westlake Village recently partnered with Rotary Club of Bangalore South in India. Together, these two clubs will provide 110 toilet units to homes in Karantka Village, ultimately enabling girls and women to have safe access to toilets.

Additionally, “we raise funds to end polio now with epic bike rides and contribute to the Rotary Foundation, which provides money for projects around the world,” Kerrigan says.

In early April, Rotary clubs in the Conejo repainted the community room in an apartment complex on Warwick Avenue in Thousand Oaks, working with Safe Passage, an after school program at Warwick.

In other ongoing efforts, “our Community Street Festival has raised money over these last 20+ years for local charitable organizations,” Kerrigan says.

The Rotary Club of Westlake Village also presents the Oakheart Country Music Festival, considered the largest of its kind in Ventura County. Each year, the event showcases 10 or more local and national country artists. Founded in 2011, the music festival has worked with the community to grow and fund local and national charities.

This year’s event will take place on June 3.

“Now in its sixth year, the Oakheart Country Music Fest brings thousands of people to Conejo Creek Park to hear great music and raise awareness of Rotary and our projects,” Kerrigan says. “This event continues to grow, which also helps local businesses.”

The ultimate goal of the Rotary is “service above self,” Kerrigan emphasizes.

“We’re a service club. Not a soccer club, not a social club,” he says. “We serve our youth, in our vocations, in our club, in our community and internationally. Along the way, we make and nurture great friendships.”

In Simi Valley, three Rotary Clubs are also working year round to make a difference: Rotary of Simi Valley Noontime Club, Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise and Rotary Club of Simi Sunset.

Rotarians provide service by giving their time, helping others in need and providing resources that might not be available to the local community, says Ryan Mills, president of the Rotary Club of Simi Sunset, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.

“All the clubs in our area have a true grasp of what our community’s needs are,” Mills says. “We will continue to provide service and help those in need.”