Rotarians have a repuation for being established, engaged members of society who meet over lunch to discuss large donations. But the San Gabriel Valley New Generation Rotary is a new diverse group of young, local professionals — that meets at a bar on Main Street.
New Gen Rotary began in 2011 with the Rotary’s support and received a charter earlier this year. Members of the group — many of whom had Rotarian parents but didn’t feel the traditional club was flexible enough for their busy schedules — range from church leaders and city officials to nurses and postal workers. Alhambra Source sat down with New Gen Rotary President Will Kelso to find out more about New Gen’s activities, what the club has planned for the future, and how they plan to benefit the community.
What’s the difference between a traditional Rotary and New Gen Rotary?
Rotary has an image of being an old, white guys club that gets together for rubber chicken lunches. It was originally the uppity-ups of society — the bank owners and law firm partners. They came together to start a Rotary, which meant they would write a check and say they were doing their part to make the world a better place.
Being the new generation, we prefer to call ourselves the “back-breaking club” versus the “check-writing club.” We go out into the community with service projects like the LIFT Garden, where we constructed garden boxes and planted organic vegetables with Alhambra Unified School District special needs students. Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self,” and we’re trying to take that message to heart.
What other “back-breaking” projects do you have planned?
We are considering projects, such as doing work in the parks. There are lots of "hands on" projects that the SGV New Gen Rotary Club wants to get involved with. At this point we're determining which ones are the most feasible or "shovel ready", and that will be our plan of attack.*
We are also involved in a less arduous project of sending military care packages to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The packages are sent to members of my former troop from the 349th Combat Support Hospital. Most of the soldiers are from San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys. As a former military medic, I thought it was appropriate to choose the theme “Serving those that have served us.”
Are there any other young Rotary clubs?
Each Rotary district has 60 clubs, and there are two other young Rotary clubs in our district. One group is in Las Vegas and the other is in the Inland Empire. The membership growth and financial standings of San Gabriel New Gen makes us a “favorite child” of the three. This group is diverse, and we reflect the community of the San Gabriel Valley.
What other ways does New Gen contribute to the community?
Besides the service projects, everybody loves the fellowship. We organize social events including Dodgers games, bowling, and karaoke, to name a few.
Is there one particular message you would like to share with Alhambra?
Don’t be afraid to get involved in any way, shape, or form. We’re not affiliated with any religious or political organization. We provide a welcoming group for anyone who would like to join us.
San Gabriel Valley New Gen Rotary usually meets every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Fronteras Mexican Grill on Main Street. An application and $25 monthly dues are required for membership.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
*CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that New Gen Rotary is in the early stages of planning and building a new playground at Almansor Park that should be completed in the next five years. We regret this error.