Summit Rotary recognized internationally for community dinner project

Kathryn Turner
Summit Daily News
Special to the Daily/Butch ElichRotary International recognized the Rotary Club of Summit County for its efforts in creating the weekly Community Dinner at the Elks Lodge. From left are Susan Juergensmeier, SC Rotary and assistant district governor; SC Rotary president Rolando Cuadrado; SC Rotarian and community dinner organizer Deb Hage; and Rotary District Governor Jim Halderman, who presented the award.

The free weekly community dinner isn’t just making waves locally, but across the world.

The Rotary Club of Summit County was honored with the Rotary International Significant Achievement Award Tuesday morning in recognition of the weekly community dinner. The award is a big deal because it affirms the importance of the initiative not only in Summit, but across the whole Rotary community, said Rotary Club of Summit County president Rolando Cuadrado.

“The award is rare,” he said. “It speaks to what the importance of the community dinner is to the community.”

The accolade recognizes a club activity that addresses a community problem or need. At a maximum, only one club from each Rotary district – Summit is one of 67 clubs in its district – is nominated every year. That’s if there even is a yearly nominee, according to Cuadrado. The clubs around the world that receive the award are chosen by the Rotary International president.

The honor means that Summit’s efforts are now known around the Rotary community, which could inspire other clubs to follow suit, Cuadrado said.

The weekly dinner – co-sponsored by the Summit County Elks Lodge, where it takes place, and Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church – began on March 3, 2009, and was originally only intended to last a year to help people through the economic crunch, according to dinner coordinator Deborah Hage. There were food banks around to help out, “but we needed a cooked meal,” she said.

But when that first year ended, and the need was still there, the groups discussed it and decided to continue along with their efforts.

That first dinner, 50 people showed up. Now, more than 48,000 people have been served – with 15,000 of those meals going to children. This summer, Hage said volunteers are serving 300-400 people a week.

“You can’t lead if people aren’t following,” Hage said Tuesday morning. “The community of Summit County has gotten behind this project. It could not be what it is today without this Rotary Club, and financial support … This award definitely goes to all of us.”

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