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Hill Rotary Club Looks to Increase Membership

Capitol Hill’s Rotary Club, founded just under a year ago, is looking to grow.

The club has made “great progress” since its charter in November 2003, said Eric Dell, the club’s president. Dell was a charter member of the club and a former member of two Rotary Clubs in South Carolina.

The club’s main goal is to increase its membership, Dell said. The club’s 25 members include health care lobbyists, appointees, staffers from the Hill and business people in the community, he said.

Being a member of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill is “a way to give back to your community,” said Dell, chief of staff for Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.).

Rotary is “an international organization of business and professional leaders united through a shared commitment to humanitarian service,” according to the group’s Web site. The group is “dedicated to fostering goodwill and peace around the world while upholding high ethical standards in the conduct of their vocational and professional endeavors.”

Rotary International has different districts across the world, Dell said. Each district breaks down into clubs, he said.

There was only one club in downtown Washington, D.C., until a group of people decided to branch off and establish a club on Capitol Hill in November 2003, Dell said.

Members of the club have a weekly breakfast meeting, where the group hears a guest speaker or a member of the group speaks, Dell said.

In addition to attending weekly meetings, each member contributes money to Rotary International, which pays for service projects around the world, Dell said.

“We are dedicated to giving back to the D.C. community,” Dell said of the club. “We want to make it a better place to live and work.”

On the local level, the club will judge an essay-writing competition and reward the winner at a school in Southeast, Dell said. On the international level, the club is working with the Spastics Society for handicapped children in India, he said.

For Thanksgiving, the club will organize a project to give food to needy and homeless families, Dell said.

Blair Bennett, a political fundraiser who serves as co-press secretary for the club, said she has a “unique connection” to Rotary International. During her junior year of high school in 1994 and 1995, she said, she took part in an exchange program in Australia through Rotary International.

“As soon as I got established in my career, I decided to get involved with the Rotary Club and give back what Rotary gave me,” she said.

Rotary International has a “common goal of service above self,” Bennett said. Speaking for the members of the club, she said, “We hope to bring that mission to this community.”

Bennett noted that Rotary clubs have the stereotype of being a group of older men, but she described the club as “having a lot of women members” and being “a lot younger than most clubs,” she said.

“We are a new generation of Rotary,” Bennett said. “It’s exciting to keep such a great thing going.”

Dell said he encourages people who are interested in the club to “come to a meeting and see what we’re about.” The club meets at 7:15 a.m. Wednesdays at La Colline, 400 North Capitol St.

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