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Linden Rotary celebrates anniversary British-style

The International Rotary Club celebrated its 100th anniversary Wednesday, prompting its Linden chapter to honor the occasion by getting together with some new long-distance friends. They’re probably, in fact, much longer-distance friends than you’d think.

That’s because the friends are the Rotarians at the West Bromwich chapter of West Bromwich, England, just outside of Birmingham (not, however, the one in Alabama). Thanks to a videoconference feed set up at Linden’s Cornerstone Church, the two chapters were able to enjoy the club’s founding 100 years ago together, despite the thousands of miles of ocean and six-hour time difference between them.

“We received an e-mail from them trying to hook up with a club with our time zone,” said Rob Wynn, minister at Cornerstone and current president of the Linden Rotary. “We have a guy who does videoconferencing, Chip Maldonado, he’s a lawyer here in Linden. So we sent them an e-mail, and corresponded with them, and got the whole thing set up.”

The club’s current meeting space at Wynn’s church helped make organizing a meeting around the video feed easy and, initially, successful.

“We have a 12 x 9 projection system at the church,” Wynn said. “We had a few great dry runs, where we could project them and see them on the big screen.”

Despite the success of the earlier attempts, the anniversary celebration itself ran into a major glitch.

“The sound didn’t work,” Wynn said. “The video was great. We were able to see them just fine. But no audio. The sound came through all the dry runs we had…that’s just the way it happens sometimes.”

According to Wynn, the two clubs enjoyed sharing the occasion in spite of the technical malfunction.

“We were still able to do some communicating, through short messages over the computer and gestures and things,” he said. “We set up the meeting where they would lead the Pledge of Allegiance and we would lead the Salute to the Queen.”

Even using brief messages, Wynn said the two clubs were able to discuss some of the things that brought them together as Rotarians.

“We have a common heart, a common plan, a common purpose, and a common pursuit,” he said. “We plan on doing this again some other time.”

According to Wynn, the Rotary has lived by the motto “service above self” throughout its 100-year history, operating on dues and giving 100% of the money taken in through donation to charity. The club was begun on February 23, 1905 by four Chicago businessmen who decided, in Wynn’s words, “to help people that can’t help themselves.” One major contribution by Rotary was its devotion throughout the 20th-century to the eradication of polio.

The Demopolis Chapter of Rotary has been honoring the club’s 100th anniversary throughout the club year, which runs July to June, by hosting “Rotary celebrations” on a bi-monthly basis. These celebrations, according to chapter president Mike Grayson, are social gatherings where the Rotarians can meet, fellowship, and raise money to plan their various charitable projects.