Urbino Rotary Club celebrates 50 years of service
FOSSOMBRONE, ITALY – Soft chatter and vibrant laughter echo across the rococo-style friezes in the 17th century Church of Saint Philip. The atmosphere is warm and convivial as men and women of all ages greet each other and casually converse awaiting the main event. Listening more closely, however, reveals these conversations are marked by bittersweet memories.
Some people think the Rotary Club lives in the clouds.
Some speak about victims of the earthquakes that shook central Italy throughout 2016. Others discuss the plight of local artisans whose livelihoods are being endangered by encroaching supermarkets, or of children with mental disabilities who lack transportation to appropriate schools. The common thread is how the Rotary Club in nearby of Urbino, celebrating its 50th birthday tonight, has worked to find solutions to these community-wide problems.
“Some people think the Rotary Club lives in the clouds,” says Marco Vignaroli, the current president of the club. “But the first thing about the club is to help people.”
The Urbino Rotary Club, founded in 1967, is a local chapter of the service-oriented Rotary International, which claims 1.2 million members around the world a dedicated to fostering international cooperation and bettering communities. On the eve of its 50th anniversary, the Urbino chapter was reviewing some of its recent accomplishments, and planning new ones.
After several earthquakes hit central Italy in the summer and fall of 2016 killing nearly 300 and leaving many hundreds more homeless, the Rotary Club sprang into action. The club organized a dinner to raise $7,800 to aid those still living with the effects of the earthquake.
In June this year the club met at the Centro Socio Educativo Francesca, a small school just outside the town of Urbino which provides education for students with mental disabilities. Many of the students at this center do not live close by, and their families often struggle to provide transportation to and from the school. The club stepped in and gave $2,500 to the Centro Francesca to pay for a new van to provide this much-needed transportation.
While the basic structure of the club has remained the same throughout its history, its culture has evolved.
“The Rotary is not like the old Rotary,” says Simone Travagli, a local architect who has been a member of the club for over ten years. “It’s not dependent on your position but whether you will do service for others.”
While forging social connections is an important part of being in the club, the goal of the club is to use these relationships to accomplish services for the community, members said.
Despite being preoccupied with so many of the community’s problems, the Rotarians remain optimistic about the work they do.
At a meeting in the now-deconsecrated Church of Saint Philip, the club discussed the many ways in which members could help cultivate interest in local culture, history and the arts. One such proposed method was through the program Art Bonus, a government initiative which provides tax credit to businesses that make donations that foster the arts in Italy.
Danillo Pazzaglini, a member of the club since 2008 and the incoming president, has many plans of his own for the club’s service activities. These range from simple projects, such as installing swing sets in public parks, to large undertakings, such as coordinating with local university students to put on a fundraising concert for children in need.
The current president of the club, Marco Vignaroli, is extremely proud of what he has helped the Rotary Club accomplish.
“I’ll be leaving my position in twenty days,” he says with a bittersweet smile. “It is a very sad thing because I love very much this year and it will be a say day when I leave.”