Today marks the 108th birthday of Rotary International and Cape Coral's first official Rotary Day as proclaimed by the mayor earlier this week.
Rotary International was founded Feb. 23, 1905, in Chicago.
This year, the president of the international organization challenged the various clubs to get their community leaders to declare one day during this past week - Rotary Week - as Rotary Day to help increase awareness.
On Wednesday, Mayor John Sullivan proclaimed today as Rotary Day.
"It's a major accomplishment that we were able to get the mayor to jump on board," Jack Martin, president of the Rotary Club of Cape Coral, said.
The Rotary Club of Cape Coral is the oldest of the Cape's three groups.
"Our club and the other two clubs actually do quite a bit of service projects in the city, so it's nice to be recognized for that," he said.
"It was just great that we were able to pull that off," Beth Sanger, president of the Rotary Club of Cape Coral Goldcoast, said. "It just shows our unity."
Colleen Howe, president of the Rotary Club of Cape Coral North, called the mayor's declaration - a first for the city - a "momentous occasion."
"Rotary does so many good things around the world, but not many people know what we do," she said. "Even though there's three clubs, we all work together - we're such a great team."
All three are part of Rotary International's District 6960.
The Rotary Club of Cape Coral, created in 1964, is known as the "morning club" because it meets Wednesdays at 7:30 a.m. at the La Venezia Ballroom. Those interested in joining are encouraged to show up and attend a meeting.
"We typically have an entertaining speaker at each meeting," Martin said.
Established in 1985, the Rotary Club of Cape Coral Goldcoast is the "lunch club" because it meets Fridays at 11:45 a.m. at Gulf Coast Village. Meetings include speakers, like the other clubs, and the public is welcome to attend.
"Visit all three clubs and see what feels like a good fit," Sanger said.
Called the "evening club," the Rotary Club of Cape Coral North meets Wednesdays at 6 p.m. at the Palmetto Pine Country Club. Howe explained that Rotary's mission is to encourage and foster community service.
"It's the largest worldwide volunteer organization that's made up of leaders in the community," she said.
Sanger, who comes from a family of Rotarians that dates back to her great-grandfather, said there is networking involved but also a strong fellowship.
"You're part of a good group of people who just want to give back to the community and do what's right for Cape Coral," she said.
"What you get in return is so fulfilling," Sanger said.
Howe echoed that.
"You can have fun, help someone else and make a difference," she said.
While the clubs are involved in some of the same projects, there are ones that are unique to each group. Locally, the Rotary Club of Cape Coral North is involved with Shelter Box, which provides tents and supplies to families hit by disasters and such, as well as Operation Open Arms, Honor Flight and ECHO.
A new one is Josh the Otter, a literacy and water safety program. The club supplies preschoolers with Josh the Otter books and does a presentation.
"We give to so many organizations locally," Howe said.
Internationally, the club is involved in a grant matching program to provide medical equipment to the Centro De Salud Paul Harris Medical Facility in Peru.
"Our project consists of supplying the clinic with badly needed medical equipment for dental care, prenatal care and OB-GYN care," she said.
There is also the Gift of Life project, where the club sponsors a child from another country to come to the United States to undergo heart surgery.
"You actually house the child and the legal guardian of that child," Howe said, adding that the housing and assistance lasts through the child's recovery.
"It is an amazing experience," she said. "You're helping to save a life."
The Rotary Club of Cape Coral is behind Rotary Park.
"That's probably our biggest thing that we've done in the city," Martin said.
The club installed a new playground at Skyline Elementary a few years ago, and it oversees two big events in the Cape - the Cape Coral Art Festival and the Cardboard Boat Regatta. Both are big fund-raisers for the organization.
"We've got a big project going on with Special Populations," he said. "We are enabling them to get on board with computers and special programs that will help them communicate and learn in an easier manner than what they have."
The group has also partnered with a Rotary Club in Fort Myers to help renovate parts of a facility for an organization for the visually impaired.
Outside of the United States, the Rotary Club of Cape Coral has ties to Andros island in the Bahamas, where is has been assisting the youth.
"What we've done over there is we have installed some playgrounds," Martin said, adding that the club has also put computers in one of the schools.
"We're constantly looking for things to get involved in," he said of Andros.
The Rotary Club of Cape Coral Goldcoast's international project takes it to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where the focus is water purification.
"We do projects that are both local and international," Sanger said.
The club awards four-year scholarships to local high school students, and three times a year it takes part in the Reading is Fundamental program. In the program, it buys books to read to students and then had out for free.
Like the other clubs, the group takes part in the annual Dictionary Day.
"We help feed families" she said. "We do a lot of food drives."
For more information about the Rotary Club of Cape Coral, contact Jack Martin at (239) 707-9015.
For more information about the Rotary Club of Cape Coral Goldcoast, call Beth Sanger at (239) 887-1614.
For more information about the Rotary Club of Cape Coral North, contact Colleen Howe at (239) 994-2582.