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In its 75th year, Rotary Club of La Jolla keeps on turning through the pandemic

Rotary Club of La Jolla members gather with students of the John A. Vaughan Tijuana Rotary Scholars Lab.
Rotary Club of La Jolla members gather with students of the John A. Vaughan Tijuana Rotary Scholars Lab, which offers English and computer classes to students.
(Courtesy of Rotary Club of La Jolla)

Undaunted by a lull in in-person events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rotary Club of La Jolla keeps its revolving door open to community projects both in San Diego and internationally, adhering to its motto, “Service above self.”

“Lots is happening,” said Rotary Club of La Jolla President Cindy Goodman. She added that the club has taken on a whopping 20 projects so far this club year (the Rotary calendar runs from July through June).

The La Jolla club is now in its 75th year, Goodman said, with about 80 members enrolled and about half of those attending weekly meetings in person at the La Valencia Hotel.

Local projects have included a food collection drive for The Salvation Army and participating in the Armed Services YMCA’s biweekly food drive for enlisted military members.

Rotary Club of La Jolla also funds about $30,000 annually in grants to community groups, Goodman said, and awards $200,000 yearly in endowed scholarship funds for local high school students.

Farther south, the club continues its John A. Vaughan Tijuana Rotary Scholars Lab, a program begun in 1998 to benefit students in Tijuana.

David Shaw, Rotary Club of La Jolla’s president-elect, who will take the club leadership in July, said the Scholars Lab involves volunteer La Jolla Rotarians teaching about 30 students English and computer skills. The students receive a $55 monthly stipend if they attend the classes and stay in school.

The students are grouped into four levels of English, he said.

“It’s been a wonderful project because these kids go on to finish high school and go on to university or technical school,” Shaw said. “These kids are giving back to the community and they’re getting out of the poverty cycle.”

Goodman said Rotarians also have participated in the Tijuana Home Build program, in which Rotarians sponsor and volunteer to build homes for families in Tijuana.

“I’m excited to see how we’re busy and booming.”

— Muiranda Wilson, La Jolla Rotarian

Across the globe, the club is working on a grant to provide services in Uganda, Goodman said. Global grants involve a collaboration between Rotary clubs in different countries.

“There’s lots of work on these global issues through these grants,” she said.

Rotary International boasts 46,000 chapters in more than 200 countries.

San Diego Rotary Club President Phil Blair and Rotary Club of La Jolla President Cindy Goodman
San Diego Rotary Club President Phil Blair and Rotary Club of La Jolla President Cindy Goodman are pictured at their induction ceremony. Rotary clubs often collaborate on service projects.
(Courtesy of Rotary Club of La Jolla)

Goodman said the La Jolla club has collected funds for disaster relief in Tonga following a volcanic eruption that began in December.

“We had someone speak to us about the impact the volcano had on residents there,” she said.

The club also is working with Rotary groups in Poland and Romania to coordinate donations to Ukrainians in need as a result of the war following the Russian invasion.

“We’ve collected a ton of money for Ukraine in five minutes,” Goodman said.

Locally, Rotarians are working to raise funds for and participate in the La Jolla Christmas Parade and ran a water station at the April 16 La Jolla Shores 5K presented by the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla.

Looking to the future, Goodman and other La Jolla club members will participate in Enhance La Jolla Day on Saturday, April 23, and the following weekend, Rotary Club of La Jolla will join other area Rotarians for Rotary at Work Day to help clean and beautify the campus of San Pasqual Academy, a residential school for foster youths in Escondido.

The La Jolla Rotarians also are restarting a landscaping effort on a triangular median at La Jolla Parkway and Torrey Pines Road.

Rotary Club of La Jolla projects are funded through membership dues and fundraising campaigns, though much of its money comes from the unplanned generosity of its members, Goodman said.

However, club leadership is struggling with a decline in in-person attendance at events, she said. “It’s been really challenging to get people re-engaged.”

Shaw said he’s “talked to a number of people who say, ‘I’m still worried about the pandemic [and] meeting in person.’ It’s a challenge to them.”

Goodman said she understands that “people are at different places. [We] respect where they are and offer opportunities [to] let people engage when and how they’re ready to do that.”

Goodman said that with different levels of comfort, wealth and availability among club members, she encourages Rotarians to offer “time, talent [or] treasure” as they can.

Noting that the club is forging ahead with new projects regardless, Rotarian Muiranda Wilson, who joined the La Jolla club during the pandemic, said, “I’m excited to see how we’re busy and booming.”

For more information, visit rotarycluboflajolla.com or email djshaw@doctor.com.