Vail Rotary Club kicks off 50th year with $50,000 grant to fund COVID-19 fight |

Vail Rotary Club kicks off 50th year with $50,000 grant to fund COVID-19 fight

Three local front line organizations receive grants from local Rotarians

About Rotary The Vail Rotary Club is meeting online at 8 a.m. Wednesdays. For information email, or club president Penny Wilson at Local Rotary clubs are part of Rotary International with 1.2 million members in 35,000 clubs around the world.

Rotarians are generally happy people, and they’re happiest when they’re giving away money they’ve raised.

The Vail Rotary Club turns 50 next month and its members are positively aglow after handing out a total of $50,000 to three local organizations at the forefront for COVID-19 relief:

  • $20,000 to the Eagle Valley Community Foundation and its food relief efforts through its Community Market
  • $20,000 for the Vail Valley Salvation Army and its valley-wide emergency relief programs
  • $10,000 to SpeakUp ReachOut for mental health services.

The Western Eagle Valley Rotary Club, based in Eagle, chipped in another $1,000 to the organizations: $400 to the Eagle Valley Community Foundation; $400 to the Salvation Army; and $200 to SpeakUp ReachOut for its new Find Help initiative and survey.

“We’re excited to partner with local Rotarians to offer a new initiative in Eagle County top help residents cope with the mental health effects of COVID-19,” Erin Ivie, SpeakUp ReachOut director said.

Local Rotarians also gave away $1,000 in restaurant gift cards to child care workers who are helping local first responders.

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Rotarians insist they’re not special, just fortunate.

“We’re fortunate to be able to do it,” Vail Rotary Club President Penny Wilson said.

Dollars and ducks

They usually do it one dollar and often one duck at a time. There’s a good chance that the only thing you know about local Rotarians is their annual Labor Day weekend rubber duck race down Vail’s Gore Creek.

There’s much more, of course.

Local high school graduates receive tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships every year.

“Scholarships are something our club is passionate about, not only here, but around the world,” Wilson said.

Because the Vail club sponsors Nyiel Garang Leek in South Sudan, she gets to attend high school. She hopes to fight human trafficking, something she says is an international issue.

“Human trafficking is a world concern,” Leek said in a letter to the Vail Rotary Club. “Enslaving someone through force, labor or prostitution is unacceptable.”

Helping end hunger at home

Closer to home, local Rotarians have taken on hunger as a cause. Feeding America found that the two Colorado counties with the highest rates of hunger are two of Colorado’s richest: Eagle and Pitkin counties.

“When we started hearing so much about the hunger in Eagle County, we decided to try to do something about it,” Wilson said.

They partnered with The Community Market and the Salvation Army. The two organizations were busy in the BC era — Before COVID-19 — and are working even harder now.

The Salvation Army used to feed 500 people a month. Now it’s 50 families a day, the Salvation Army’s Dan Smith said.

The Community Market is on track to provide food for as many as 3,000 individuals this week, compared with 1,050 a week before the coronavirus crisis, Susie Davis of the Eagle Valley Community Foundation said.

“The $20,000 gift from Vail Rotary helps us continue to provide fresh produce for our customers. Providing access to healthy nutrition is more important than ever,” Davis said.

Since 1970, local Rotarians have always responded with enthusiasm, volunteers, and funds to support a variety of needs in the Vail Valley.

The Vail Rotary Club helped raise the money to build the Vail hospital as it transitioned from the Vail Clinic opened in 1965 to the Vail Valley Medical Center.

“Now we want to focus on helping the people who are in the greatest need as a result of the pandemic. Rotarians look forward to a future time when we can also volunteer ourselves,” Wilson said.

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