Salisbury kids are working with Rotary Club on service projects

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Rotary Club has spent many decades helping others, whether it be picking up trash on Green Up Day or helping to eradicate polio from the face of the Earth. The club has historically drawn membership from some of the best and brightest on the local business scene.
Well, club officials last month brought a new generation of philanthropists into the fold: students at the Salisbury Community School, who on Jan. 24 were officially recognized as Addison County’s first-ever EarlyAct Club. Sanctioned and supported by Rotary International, EarlyAct is a service club for elementary students ages 5 to 13. Its members embrace the same Rotary philosophy of “service above self” as they collectively plan activities and projects designed to help themselves and others.
Five young leaders of the nascent Salisbury EarlyAct Club met their adult sponsors on Wednesday, Feb. 24, during the Middlebury Rotary’s weekly gathering at Rosie’s Restaurant.
“I think it’s fabulous to get young people involved in philanthropy, community relations at an early age,” Middlebury Rotary member Maureen Conrad said of the Salisbury EarlyAct effort. It’s a club that will not only perform good deeds in Salisbury, but potentially also serve as a pipeline for future Rotary members.
EarlyAct Salisbury germinated during a discussion between Salisbury School Principal Fernanda Canales and Middlebury Rotary Club member Ben Fuller.
“I had been looking for something to engage our kids in really genuine work in the community,” Canales said.
Her students jumped at the idea with great enthusiasm.
Canales said 27 students vied for the privilege of becoming EarlyAct Club officers. Students in grades 5 and 6 — which amount to a combined total of 48 kids — were eligible to apply for leadership posts, Canales noted.
Two representatives of each class will take turns attending the meetings of the Middlebury Rotary. They’ll share meeting highlights with their peers, who will also serve as a sounding board for ideas. All Salisbury Community School students are considered club members.
“These kids have also written their constitution, their bylaws, and they are learning the process of being civic members of our community and responsibility,” Canales said. “Whether it’s Rotary or any other part of their community, I’m hoping that this enthusiasm and engagement carries on for them.”
Students pick their officers and run their own meetings. Together they must plan, execute and raise funds for three community service projects each year. One of those projects must benefit their school; another must be a boon to their broader community; and the third must be helpful to the global community.
Each of the new Salisbury EarlyAct Club officers on Jan. 24 told members of their parent Rotary club why they signed up and what they hoped to accomplish.
Natalie Gillett will serve as one of the Salisbury club’s treasurers.
“I am interested in building a platform around a tree at our school that we call ‘Mother Pine,’” she said enthusiastically. “It’s special, because it’s the only tree we get to climb.”
Channing Brush will serve as corresponding secretary for the club.
“I wanted to be an officer because I wanted to try something new and different,” she said.
Phoenix Popp is one of the group’s vice presidents.
“I wanted to be the vice president to become part of the community,” he said.
Emma Cait Morrissey serves as co-vice president.
“I wanted to help people in the community,” she said of her reason for joining the club.
Jameson McGuire is also a treasurer for the new student organization. He, too, said he joined in an effort to help his community.
Students will spend the coming weeks reviewing potential community service projects. Among the early candidates: filling in some of the holes in a large field near the school playground and putting up reminder signs for school toilet users to flush when they’re done.
The club officers also want to make better use of the school garden and want to donate some of the fresh produce to Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects, a local nonprofit that feeds low-income residents.
Middlebury Rotary members were impressed with the youths’ growing to-do list.
“These guys are motivated and their hearts are in the right place,” Fuller said. “These guys have some great ideas.”
Eric Denu of Bridport is governor of Rotary Club District 7850, which includes more than 30 individual clubs in northern Vermont, northern New Hampshire and southern Québec. He was pleased to be part of the ceremony formally creating the Salisbury EarlyAct Club. Denu gave the young Salisbury officers some official EarlyAct pins.
“The whole idea is sustainability within our organization of Rotary,” Denu said. “If we can instill the ideals of Rotary at an early age, we hope that carries on through for the rest of their lives and hopefully, some day, they’ll become Rotarians. It’s a great program. We have it at all levels now, from elementary through college age. It’s a great organization, and I’m glad we’re going to get some new Rotarians.”
Middlebury Rotary also sent the children off to school with some gifts to go along with the words of encouragement and a hearty Rosie’s Restaurant breakfast.
Gifts included a gavel to sound the beginning, and end, of their EarlyAct meetings and some rolls of “Four-Way Test” coins. Each Salisbury student will get one of the coins, which bears the Four-Way Test (truth, fairness, friendship and benefit) against which Rotary Clubs measure new initiatives.
As Canales whisked the students off to school, she expressed her gratitude to Rotary members.
“Thank you for the opportunity you’ve given our school,” she said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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