SUNDAY FILE: The Rotary Club of Flagstaff Celebrates 100 Years of Community Service | Local


There is a lit fireplace in the corner, but its crackle cannot be heard over the crackle of friendly conversation. At the door, a man wearing a badge – Steve Cervantes – helps the others affix their own badges. As a guest, I need a sticker, and Steve’s left hand is injured; only a few fingers are free from his molded wrist. When Steve struggles to peel the sticker from his backing, another man, Richard Lozano, steps forward.

“Here, Steve, let me help you with that,” he said.

Richard assists Steve, and together they welcome me to the Flagstaff Rotary Club Luncheon.

Club president Tonya Watson invited me to attend the meeting to get a feel for the Flagstaff Rotary Chapter. It’s a great year for the local club – its centenary. On December 1, the Flagstaff Rotary Club will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its charter.

The Rotary Club motto is “Serve Before You,” and these words are engraved on signs and banners that decorate the hall. Watson rings a bell to bring the meeting to order, and after the members take the pledge of allegiance, she invites a moment of quiet reflection.

“Let’s keep in mind all of our community in need,” she says, and the room takes a few quiet breaths together.

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A handful of announcements and an introduction to the preamble gratitude to the guest speaker: the president of the University of Northern Arizona, José Luis Cruz Rivera. The university president shares his trip to NAU and a brief description of his goals, then invites questions. There is a lot of.

Club members are curious about everything from student safety to collaborations with community colleges. They ask questions about parking, the cost of living, housing and how the NAU intends to support business education. The latter gets several nods of approval. There are carpenters, electricians, shopkeepers of all kinds in the audience.

In short, the club questions Cruz Rivera, and the reason is obvious: they care. They care about the community they call home, and they have demonstrated that care over 100 years of service.

The Rotary Club of Flagstaff completes more service projects in a year than most individuals will in their lifetime. Every year, they give scholarships to graduates of local high schools, but that’s just the start. This year the club hosted a golf tournament to benefit Northland Hospice & Palliative Care.

“We are the only non-profit hospice in northern Arizona,” said Northland CEO Kathy Simmons. “The Rotary Club has helped us earn $ 5,000 in income. I was so impressed. Not just for what they have done with us, but for the other services they have rendered in town.

When Jason Kordosky, volunteer coordinator at the Flagstaff Family Food Center, needed help renovating a kitchen, the Rotary Club showed up.

“They are ideal community partners,” he said. “They are always on hand.”

Among the volunteers who came to support Kordosky was Walter “Hoppy” Hopkins, who has been a local Rotarian since 1999. During this time, Hopkins served hot meals, distributed dictionaries to school children, and helped with the construction. from the Frances Amphitheater of the Short Pond. He got his hands dirty a lot, even helping others to clean theirs. Recently, Hoppy and other Rotarians built handwashing stations in the Navajo Nation to promote good hygiene during the pandemic.

For Hopkins, the club’s power lies in its leadership and network.

“I think there are a lot of people who are willing to do things, but they really don’t know how to go about it,” he said. “You have to have someone who has enough interest in leading things to get them going, and it’s easier if you have someone who has a little point of view or a contact who can help get things started. things. “

For the time being, the Rotary Club of Flagstaff has handed over the leadership to President Watson. Naturally indomitable, Watson came to Flagstaff via Georgia, where she was first drawn to the Rotary Club many years ago as a young business owner.

“All the engines and agitators were in Rotary,” she said of her Georgia chapter. “And I wanted to come in.”

Unfortunately for Watson, she found her chapter on Georgia to be far from inclusive. As a woman, they didn’t allow her to get involved at the level she wanted. That changed when she moved to Arizona.

“I found the Flagstaff club to be a lot more open, a lot more inviting,” she said.

Through dedicated service, Watson rose to the rank of Flagstaff club president and then district governor, a role in which she oversaw more than 40 clubs in the area. After a while she found the position a little too high.

“I wanted to spend more time with my local club,” she explained. With open arms, the Flagstaff Rotary Club welcomed Watson’s return as president.

During her Rotary career, Watson admits that initially she was only really interested in building networks to support her business. Somewhere along the way, his motivation changed.

“It was our motto – Service Above Self – that made the change for me,” she said. “I really started to see what was possible, what we could do in our community.”

Watson’s most cherished service memory to date is the Buffalo Park Project whereby Rotary partnered with the city to restore and improve the 275-acre municipal park.

“We were there every weekend for a year,” Watson said. “That year we volunteered for over 1,000 hours in the park alone. When we were done I thought about how beautiful everything was, how many people would appreciate the improvements. I felt good about the legacy we were leaving.

In terms of legacy, Watson also has other ambitions. She would like to see the Flagstaff Rotary Club attract more diverse members.

“If our goal is to serve the community, then our members need to reflect that community more,” she said.

In his mind, the community doesn’t stop at the city limits of Flagstaff. Watson is pleased to announce that the club recently secured a grant to dig 90 wells in the Navajo Nation in partnership with DIGDEEP, an organization specifically focused on providing piped water to American homes in need.

The thing about the Rotary Club is that alongside all this community service there grows a smaller, more loving kind of community: friendship. Ultimately, that’s what keeps Steve Cervantes coming back.

“I was in a fraternity in college,” Cervantes said. “And I liked this link. I feel the same about this club. Do you have a group of people who know what you’re going through, who you’ve been through the fire with? For me, this is just one more extension of that.

During my sit-in at the Rotary Club in Flagstaff, Cervantes sat across from me. He made sure I knew how to use the hummus and pita on the table. Just before the end bell rang, the group recited their “Four Way Test”.

“Things we think, say or do,” the group said in unison. “First, is it the truth? Second, is it fair to everyone involved? Third, will it create goodwill and friendships? Fourth, will it benefit everyone involved? “

Then the meeting adjourned, and the delicious brawl resumed.

Service may be its own reward, but for this century-old club it is a premise, a reason to come together, a reason to trust others, a reason to give strength to something beyond oneself. .

The Flagstaff Rotary Club will host its 100th anniversary celebration Wednesday at the Flagstaff Ranch Clubhouse. For more information, contact Tonya Watson at [email protected], (928) 853-1406.

About Jefferey G. Cannon

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