Anabella Bonfa’s Rotary club has long recognized the importance of
creating an environment that makes family members feel welcome
and valued. Seven years ago, the Rotary Club of Irvine, California,
USA, went out of its way to involve her son, Anthony, who was nine
at the time. Don Kennedy, then-club president, was quick to give
Anthony age-appropriate tasks when Bonfa brought him to service
“I remember being at a local food drive where we were collecting
food donations outside a grocery store,” recalls Anthony, now 16.
“Don reached into his pocket, pulled out $40 and told me to go
shop in the store for ‘food samples’ to put on our display table. That
same day, Don told me I was old enough to count all the money and
checks — about $400 worth — and I became his official accountant.
I had a great time shopping and counting money.”
Since then, Anthony has volunteered at more than 70 Rotary
service projects and has had experiences he would never have
had otherwise. He’s helped build houses for poor families in
Mexico, helped provide free eyeglasses to people in underserved
communities, and cooked waffles for U.S. Marines. In 2019, in honor
of Kennedy who died of cancer the year before, Anthony led his
first Rotary project — the same food drive he helped at as a child.
With Anthony engaged in service activities, club time becomes
family time and enables the Bonfas to volunteer at more than 30
projects a year. His involvement not only makes it easier for his
parents to take part, but it also gives events a “family-friendly”
ambience and encourages other parents to join the club.
The club also regularly invites local high school students and
Rotaractors from the University of California, Irvine to participate in
its service projects and, in turn, club members show up to support
their student-run activities.
GROWING THE NEXT GENERATION
Honoring youth, the club believes, will attract younger Rotarians
and grow the next generation of leaders who will continue Rotary’s
work for years to come.
This is what RI President Mark Daniel Maloney had in mind when
he made welcoming family members to Rotary events one of his
top priorities for 2019-2020. He has encouraged all clubs to consider
ways they can make their meetings and activities family-friendly.
“We must foster a culture where Rotary does not compete with
family, but complements it,” says Maloney. “We should never
expect our members to choose between the two. That means being
realistic in our expectations, considerate in our scheduling, and
welcoming of children at Rotary events on every level.”
Here are some ideas for creating a family-friendly environment at
your club’s events.
Start small. Hold a few meetings at family-friendly times then
gradually schedule more events at those hours. Consider
locations that are informal, like a local coffee shop.
Give children roles to play in club meetings, like handing out
birthday cards and helping with announcements.
Bring family members to a Rotary service project or fundraising
Give children a task during fundraisers. This could include
tagging ducks ahead of a duck race, selling tickets, or cleaning
up after an event.
Brainstorm ideas for projects that children and their parents
can work on together.