DRACUT — When Melissa Lemieux had a fundraiser on June 7 to benefit her newly formed heart foundation, the Dracut Rotary club helped out, cooking hamburgers and hot dogs in 95-degree heat.
When 15-year-old Nick Frotton, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3, needed a verbal-assistance device, the Dracut Rotary Club joined forces with the Dracut Knights of Columbus and purchased three machines at $4,300 each — one for Nick, one for the Dracut public schools and another for the Merrimack Education Collaborative.
Dracut Rotarians have flown to Haiti to install irrigation systems. They have donated thousands of dollars annually for scholarships. They’ve supplied wheelchairs for the disabled, community aid to the impoverished, relief to flood victims all over the world.
They supported the Dracut Children’s Memorial Project, a poignant monument that sits behind Dracut High School, dedicated to Dracut children who have died. And in April, Rotarians made it possible for a young mother to travel from Honduras to Boston so her infant daughter could have surgery to repair a hole in her heart.
Member Farook Taufiq has flown to India to install toilets in ghetto areas, bringing hundreds of insect nets with him so people forced to sleep outside don’t die of malaria. The group has supported the construction of medical facilities in South Africa so children can stay with their single mothers dying of AIDS.
“But what we fail to do much of the time is help people understand who Rotary is,” said longtime member Jim Buxton. “Why do we do these things? What’s the purpose?”
The Dracut branch of Rotary International bears the motto, “Service Above Self.” The credo dictates that before any action, thought or word, they ask themselves four questions: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
The group meets once a week for fellowship and to bring in guests who tell them about various projects that are going on in the community and around the world. At 26 members, the group is made up of business people in town, including bankers, lawyers, a health-club owner, insurance and real-estate agents, business managers and executives.
“Anybody who has a leadership position in their company,” Buxton said. “Our mission is to help.”
Among the many helped were four Dracut High students chosen to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards conference at Worcester State College last weekend. The four — Taylor Noble, Larkyna Buth, Kayla O’Shea and Julia Hadley — were selected from a group of students interviewed by Dracut Rotary representatives.
The teens enjoyed the Rotary meeting, which was held at Coyle’s Tavern in Dracut. A typical meeting includes a meal, a little bit of business and a little bit of frivolity. The teens laughed along with their adult counterparts when the basket collecting “fines” went around to the members.
“Throw a dollar in the basket if you sang the national anthem out of tune just now,” said Rotary member Stephen Brox, owner of Brox Industries. “Throw a dollar in the basket if you didn’t wear your Rotary pin today. Throw another dollar in if you wore your pin today.”
Another dollar if you chose chocolate pudding with your entree. A dollar if it was your birthday. A dollar if you knew somebody celebrating a birthday.
The camaraderie is infectious. Guests are singled out and given a warm welcome, from Dracut High guidance counselor Brenda Dolliver, who accompanied the students to the meeting, to Mike Abdinoor, owner of Abdinoor’s Carpet Craft in Dracut, who was the lucky raffle winner of a clambake for 10 people, courtesy of the Rotary Club.
“It’s what we do,” Buxton said. “I’m convinced that if there was life on other planets, Rotary would be there.”