DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PITTSFIELD, Ill. --
Pittsfield High School junior Joe Miller is gaining a better
understanding of how to help people around the world without ever
He played a part in providing drinking water, chickens
and a water buffalo for families in Africa, battling polio, and
providing a holiday treat for senior citizens closer to home thanks to
involvement in the Rotary Interact club at PHS.
"I know that here we're really spoiled, but we don't
really know it. To go out and look at real life things makes you open
your eyes a lot more than what you see in Pike County," said Miller,
vice-president of the PHS club.
Interact is Rotary International's service club for
youth ages 12 to 18. Traditional Rotary clubs sponsor the Interact
clubs, which do at least two community service projects each year. One
of those programs is designed to further international understanding and
"The most important aspect of Interact is the concept
that service is a good thing, that community service is an integral part
of successful communities and so getting involved in an organization
whose focus is predominantly service to others is a good growth
experience," said Bill Durall, Interact club liaison and board member of
the Pittsfield Rotary Club. "The other thing the kids get out of this is
the opportunity for leadership -- to lead meetings, organize
On the second day of Christmas break from school, club
members baked cookies and delivered them to nursing home residents in
"It was a lot of fun," said club member Abbie Price, a
PHS junior. "Rotary is a way for me to help out my community."
The students baked cake mix cookies with various
toppings, packaged them and then "they go and give them to each of the
residents," said PHS Principal Angie Greger, who sponsors the club.
"It was nice seeing all the people out there. They
enjoyed us coming," Price said. "You can tell the people appreciated
It's the second year for the cookie-baking project and
going into the fourth year for the group, which grew from just a handful
of students to around 35 members this year.
Club members make Interact activities a priority in
schedules already crowded with homework, extracurricular activities and
part-time jobs. "It's a great group of young people who are active in a
lot of different things. It's a credit to them in wanting to serve their
community," Durall said.
"It helps instill that community service mindset, and
it forms the potential for new Rotary members," Pittsfield Rotary member
Kaye Iftner said.
But key is "the fact they do things that are part of a
bigger purpose, not just a local club doing local community service
stuff. They're part of an international organization," she said.
The PHS club raised money to build a well in Africa,
donated money to Heifer Project International to provide animals to
families in need and worked with Rotary Club members during the Pike
County Fall Color Drive to raise money for efforts to eradicate polio
"It's important the students have an opportunity to
serve people in the community and those internationally who are a lot
less fortunate than we are. Through some speakers and opportunities,
their eyes are opened on some situations that we don't necessarily
always think about like malaria and polio that have been eradicated from
us for a while, just the needs that people from some other countries
have, the things we take for granted," Greger said. "It's providing an
opportunity to serve in ways we normally would not have the opportunity
Closer to home, they helped build the county's first
Habitat for Humanity house in Griggsville, plan to sponsor a mother-son,
daddy-daughter event this winter and worked with the Pittsfield Rotary
on its major fundraiser.
"Every year our local club sells radio advertisements
to local merchants and organizations, then we take over WBBA radio
station for two days that the Color Drive is going on. We broadcast
those ads and provide public service announcements to help people know
what is going on with all the Color Drive activities. We got Interact
students to help us read some of the ads," Durall said.
"Interact is a real positive organization. The kids
get a good positive experience out of it."
AT A GLANCE
• Interact is Rotary International’s service club for
young people ages 12 to 18.
• The first Interact group met in 1962 with 23 students at Melbourne
High School in Melbourne, Fla.
• It has since become one of the most significant and fastest-growing
Rotary programs, with more than 10,700 clubs in over 120 countries and
• More than 250,000 young people are involved in Interact.
• Brazil, India, the Philippines and the United States have the highest
number of Interact clubs.