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What Rotary means to me

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

By Kim Schmidt '01

My former boss, YMCA President & CEO Jim Williams, nominated me for the Club in 2001. My Rotary induction back then was a pretty formal and somber event . . . a little too much so for my comfort. So in the midst of the ceremony and at about the 34th mention of the word “Rotary,” I interrupted and paused the speaker (I guess that hadn’t been done before but when you’re not from around here you don’t tend to know things like that).

I announced I had a question and quipped, “Wait, you mean this isn’t Kiwanis!?!” The audible gasp of the crowd had me second-guessing my selected social faux pas. Just as I began contemplating the impact of my apparent career-limiting move, Denny Walsh, God Bless his soul, laughed the loudest yell-like laugh I’ve ever heard and slammed his hand down on the table, proclaiming, “That’s the funniest damn thing I’ve ever heard!” And with that, I successfully survived my Rotary Induction.

Since then, I’ve developed so many best friends from all over the community and county at large, from different backgrounds, geographies, ages and industries. At 26 years old, I could not have predicted that this group of incredibly talented and community-minded people would be there to support me through life’s transitions, both good and bad.

Sometimes it’s the seemingly little things, like when I returned to Rotary while still on maternity leave and Rabbi Slaton held my 2-month-old during a meeting so I could finish my lunch. Other times, it’s a little more intense, like when Bob and Rob Weigel supported me through the loss of my Mom, and Rob personally drove her to her final resting place in her hometown of Cleveland.

It's the friendships made in the trenches of planning a 100th Club Anniversary, like with Lisa Guliano, Curt Ellison and so many others. It’s learning the multiple layers of community connectedness such as discovering Rotary had begun the tradition of serving children with developmental disabilities at YMCA Camp Campbell Gard.

If you’re a “non-native Hamiltonian” like me, immersing yourself in Rotary is imperative to navigating new complexities and building relationships. If you’re a native Hamiltonian, resist the temptation to take the people here for granted, and join us in our efforts. In either case, I promise you’ll receive far more than you give.

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