Rotarians are known worldwide for their camaraderie and philanthropy. With more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs around the globe, the group has committed itself to the eradication of polio and other humanitarian projects.
The Rotary Club of Beverly Hills, chartered in 1924, brings the legacy of Rotary International to the area. Its ranks are filled by local business and civic leaders who are dedicated to making the world a better place with the motto “Service Above Self.”
But in today’s challenging economy and changing social structure, the Beverly Hills’ Rotarians are looking ahead to its next generation by helping to develop the Young Professionals Rotary of Beverly Hills, an offshoot that is working towards establishing its own place within Rotary International.
“Rotary provided the opportunity for satellite clubs,” said A.J. Willmer, president of the Beverly Hills Rotary Club. “They said they would accept 200 proposals worldwide for satellite clubs that would function differently than a normal Rotary Club does. We applied and we got one of those acceptances.”
By developing the satellite club, Willmer wanted to do something that could help improve future membership while attracting the next generation of business leaders. Yet he found three main roadblocks:
- Rotarians have a mandatory meeting every Monday, which tends to create a scheduling conflict for young workers.
- Dues are expensive at $675/year.
- The habits of older Rotarians differ from those of younger potential members.
In his efforts to launch a satellite club, Willmer was introduced about a year and a half ago to Yaron Sadka, a 2006 Beverly Hills High School graduate, who had recently returned from college on the East Coast. Sadka was quick to get involved, developing a board for the Young Professionals Rotary of Beverly Hills and serving as the group’s president.
“We created the opportunity but it’s Yaron and his board who have really taken on the leadership and put something rather special in place,” Willmer said. “And it involved things that work with that generation and would not work with the rest of our membership.”
The most recent gathering of the Young Professionals Rotary was Sunday night in a member’s backyard. To raise money for the Special Olympics, they enjoyed a screening of Cool Runnings—a film about Olympic bobsled hopefuls from Jamaica—on a giant, inflatable screen while mingling with potential Young Professional members and local Rotarians. There was a suggested donation of $5 for attendees.
“Right now our major focus is on membership,” Sadka said. “We’ve had about seven to eight events. We’re looking at doing guest speakers, as well as networking events such as this, which provide a more relaxed atmosphere for our members to get to know each other as well as the Beverly Hills Rotary.”
The plan is for the Young Professionals Rotary to develop and grow over three years. After that time, Rotary International will decide if the model is successful and can stay intact. If deemed a success, it would then be used as a model for other Rotary satellite groups around the world.
“We’re in the midst of a three-year project,” Willmer said. “It was supposed to be a year to put some planning together. We are in year two. Year two was to begin to construct the club. Yaron and his group are almost a year ahead.”
Sadka’s goal is to have 20 active members in the group within the next year. Dues are cheaper than that of the parent organization, costing $185 a year.
“I’m happy to say we’ve got this thing launched. After our first year, we’ve doubled our membership. We are now a total of seven people,” Sadka said. “We’re doing pretty well right now. We have a couple other potential members in the pipeline.”
Cassie Hoppock joined the Young Professionals Rotary last fall and serves as the board’s marketing/PR chair. She worked with Tools for Schools last week to help fill and decorate backpacks for needy kids in the Los Angeles area.
“We’re starting small and trying to do really hands-on work in the community,” Hoppock said. She added that the Young Professionals Rotary hopes to attract members who are “interested in not just putting this on their resume, but people who really want to be involved in something more than themselves—in the community locally and in the international community as well.”