When members of the Rotary Club of Dunwoody have questions, they know where to turn. They check with one of the club’s four original members.
“They are the standard bearers, Rotarians at heart,” said Dottie Toney, membership director of the club.
The four — Gary Lane, William M. “Bill” Mulkey, Cecil G. “Teak” Pacetti, Jr., and Douglas Wright – all have served as presidents of the club and, among them, they have held more than 25 leadership positions altogether. And they have watched the 27-year-old service club grow from 40 members to 90 and raise and donate tens of thousands of dollars a year to local and international charities.
“When we first started,” said Mulkey, a retired Georgia Power Co. manager, “we each contributed $100 to our Benevolent Fund. That was $3,500 that we could present to local charities during our first year. Now we contribute $40,000 to $60,000 to The Rotary Foundation each year and raise $40,000 to $70,000 each year for our Dunwoody Charitable Fund.”
The club’s work has been important, said Wright, a tax attorney and Dunwoody resident for 33 years. “Members of the Dunwoody Club have been instrumental in the establishment of character education in Georgia public schools, teaching Junior Achievement classes and endowing scholarships,” Wright said. “We have also been contributors to Rotary International’s efforts to eliminate polio and have provided personnel to travel overseas to administer immunization vaccines to children.”
Members of other service groups in nearby communities tell similar stories. North DeKalb and north metro Atlanta are dotted with service clubs, including Rotary, Kiwanis and other clubs, that channel volunteer hours and contributions from local business owners and community leaders.
Many clubs have been in operation for a generation or more and retain active members, such as the four original members of the Dunwoody Rotary and Milton Gorman, a retired banker who has been a member of Kiwanis for 49 years and served as president of the Sandy Springs Club four times.
The Sandy Springs Kiwanis Club, for instance, regularly provides volunteers to the Ronald McDonald House and has been involved with Boy Scout groups, Heritage Sandy Springs, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Community Action Center and other groups. And the Kiwanians sponsor the annual pet parade during the Sandy Springs Festival.
The club recently celebrated its 60th anniversary with a dinner at the William Payne Garden Room at Heritage Sandy Springs.
“When I go back over the history and look at what we’ve done, I think it’s pretty important,” Gorman said. “A lot of it is in the background. We’ve got something going on, so far as community service, all the time.”
In addition to opportunities to provide community service, the clubs, mostly filled with business owners or corporate employees, provide members a way to meet and make new friends, members say.
“People join Rotary because they think it’s going to help their business,” said Alec Smythe, president of the 175-member Buckhead Rotary Club. “They stay with Rotary because of the service projects and then they stay with Rotary because of the friendships. … They see it as relatively important. It’s a chance to serve their community.”
The 60-year-old Buckhead club supports a charter school in south Fulton County and has recently supported projects in Ecuador, Smythe said. It now is considering projects closer to home, he said, including making contributing to Liveable Buckhead, a new non-profit organization working to promote more green space in Buckhead.
“Our mission is to help the people in our community, the people in our city, the people in the world,” Smythe said. “Our plan [in the future] is to do fewer, but bigger and bolder projects.”
In Dunwoody, Rotarians now are emphasizing service projects that require active, hands-on participation by members, rather than simply donations of money, Wright said. When he joined the then-new club, he was 37 and had young children at home, he said. But he’s watched the club grow into what he sees as an important community asset.
“Being one of the four charter members of the Rotary means primarily that I have had the good fortune to be part of a group which created a service-oriented, goal-achieving, fun-loving club,” Wright said, “and of being associated with men and women of character and energy who, collectively, have made a difference in both the local community and internationally over the past 27 years.”
Here are some of the service clubs that meet regularly in Brookhaven, Buckhead, Dunwoody or Sandy Springs.
Brookhaven Rotary Club
• Meets Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m.
Buckhead Rotary Club
• Founded in 1950
• Meets Mondays at 12:15 p.m.
Dunwoody Rotary Club
• Founded in 1984
• Meets Fridays 7:15 a.m.
North Atlanta Rotary Club
• Founded in 1962
• Meets Thursdays at 12:15 p.m.
Sandy Springs Rotary Club
• Founded in 1972
• Meets Mondays at 12:15 p.m.
Chamblee Kiwanis Club
• Meets Thursdays at noon
Buckhead Kiwanis Club
• Founded in 1958
• Meets Mondays
Dunwoody Kiwanis Club
• Founded in 1949
• Meets Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.
Sandy Springs Kiwanis Club
• Meets 1st & 3rd Thursdays at 11:45 a.m.
Sources: various club web pages