Rotary’s Vance making history

Published 6:54 am Thursday, July 29, 2010

Staff Writer

The first female president of Washington’s Evening Rotary Club is looking forward to the opportunity and challenge of taking the club into a new direction.
Mary Jo Vance, the newly elected president, originally, is from Pine Level, a small town near Smithfield. Vance lived in Philadelphia for 30 years and in Winston-Salem for seven years.
“We moved here (Washington) about two and a half years ago,” she said. “We came here, fell in love with the place and never left.”
Vance also served as the Smithfield Rotary Club’s president for one term.
“Rotary was founded by a man, I think in Chicago, to primarily to get businessmen together for philanthropic efforts to help their community,” Vance said. “And our whole thrust is philanthropic.”
Vance said the Washington Evening Rotary Club supports local organizations by having fundraisers for them. Those organizations include entities such as the Boys &Girls Club of Beaufort County, Meals on Wheels, the Greater Pamlico Area Chapter of the American Red Cross and others.
The club has 29 members, two of them women.
Vance said that when she was elected as the club’s president, she promised all members that she would not treat them as though she is their mother, grandmother or an ex-wife.
“They all laughed at that,” she said with a smile.
“But it’s quite a job,” she said of being president. “Especially with the demands that national and district (Rotary divisions) put on you. All of it’s worthwhile. For instance, our biggest push right now is Polio Plus. And the Bill and Linda Gates Foundation has challenged $200,000, and, right now, we have $130,000, and that’s been our big thrust to get that $200,000.”
Vance said the club conduct a golf tournament in September, with all proceeds from the event going toward the Polio Plus Foundation.
“We’re hoping that if we don’t get up to their number that they’ll match whatever we have,” Vance said.
The club now has two major fundraisers every year. There’s a barbecue sale and fishing tournament, held for the first time this year.
Although the Rotary Clubs in Washington, the other being the Washington Noon Rotary Club, are similar, there are significant differences between the two, Vance said.
“We’re the same organization. However, many business people want to meet at noon, but it restricts your time. Which is why there’s the Evening (Rotary) Club,” she said. “With our club, we have more flexibility and a lot of fun and a lot of laughter.
“Sometimes during a noon club meeting, the members may have to walk out on a speaker in order to get back to work. With our club, we stay for the speaker the entire time because we’re in the evening. We also have some entertainment, such as ways of fabricating fiberglass for boats. It was very interesting.”
Vance said existing economic conditions have created a difficult situation for the club and nation, but she sees the club continuing to head in a positive direction.
“And that attributes to our members,” she said. “Because our members are very devoted, and they pitch in whenever needed. And our goal should not be just to have fun, but to be philanthropic and help businesses with economic needs in the area, and we are constantly torn where to put our money. But our goal is to build up the community.”
The Washington Evening Rotary Club meets at 6 p.m. Thursdays at the Washington Yacht &Country Club. Vance said visitors and prospective members are welcome to attend meetings, noting that prospective members must be sponsored by a current member before they are considered for membership in the club.