Rotarian starts community corps to help adults with special needs
Sharon Irving, a member of the Rotary Club of Cortlandt Manor, New York, USA.
Sharon Irving’s 20-year-old son, Douglas, has developmental disabilities, but he doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of charity all the time.
“I notice this among people throughout the special-needs community,” Irving says. “They’re thrilled to be the ones giving for a change. They need self-respect and self-esteem just like everybody else on the planet.”
In 2010, she started the Rotary Community Corps of Keon at a vocational center for adults with special needs; 25 people signed up.
The members elect their own officers, each of whom is paired with a mentor, and select their own projects. Their first, a spaghetti dinner in March 2011, raised $1,000 for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. They’ve also joined members of Irving’s Rotary club to ring the bell for the Salvation Army and participate in a local parade.
“I’ve never seen a club where everyone shows up for every meeting and votes not ‘yes’ but ‘yay!’ for everything that’s brought up to do,” Irving says. “This gives them a chance to shine and to show that they have as much to give as you and I.”
A bonus is increasing the public’s understanding of Rotary. “If I died tomorrow, this project would be the one thing I could be the most proud of in my life,” she says. “I did it as a tribute to Douglas.”
Read more stories from The Rotarian or sign up for the digital edition.