- Doug Townsend
ROTARY’S SWEAT-EQUITY PROJECTS
Rotary projects that require members to pitch in and help with some physical labour are called sweat-equity projects. These are near and dear to the hearts of Rotarians who want to make a difference through community service. While many organizations asking for help need funds alone, Rotarians also seek out worthy projects where we can become involved in person with ideas, muscle power and tools.
The best example of a local sweat-equity project is Rotary Park. The Kingston-Frontenac Rotary Club took on its development in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Kingston Township had approved the club’s plan and provided some bridge financing, but most of the work was done by club members. To fundraise specifically for the park (and to repay the township’s loan), members were divided into teams to run bingos. This occurred prior to the amalgamation of the township with the City of Kingston and it’s hard to say whether the same type of project would be feasible today with all the municipal and provincial regulations and red tape. It is located on the south shore of Collins Bay.
Soon after it was chartered in 1985, the Rotary Club of Cataraqui-Kingston took on the task of building playground equipment for a small park or school. The club had the funds and an experienced engineer as a member who took charge. The members enthusiastically pitched in on a weekend and it was done. But, within two years the resulting equipment, still going strong, had to be torn down and replaced as it was not built by formally-approved contractors using prescribed procedures.
The Rotary Club of Kingston had the same experience with their playground experience at Lord Strathcona Public School.
There have been countless other opportunities for sweat-equity projects. In the early 1990s, Kingston hosted a National Symposium for Parents of Children with Cancer. The Cataraqui Club agreed to help fund families that needed financial assistance with travel and accommodation. It was soon discovered that organizational help was also needed. Our club stepped up and took over the logistics. Rotarians became chauffeurs, ushers, desk clerks, along with numerous other tasks.
This is what Rotarians do. When people power is required, we jump in and help however we can. The Rotary Club of Kingston parked cars for a couple of International Plowing Matches and helped build Habitat for Humanities homes. Rotarians clean and organize community kitchens, pack and deliver food boxes, plant and maintain community gardens, and even took over a day at the Brier Patch for The Brier, serving customers. We step in to help Loving Spoonful harvest school gardens and help local organizations like Easter Seals and Helen Tufts Nursery School change locations. Another project is to cultivate, seed, weed and harvest produce from the Robinson Garden for the local Food Sharing program. One of the most recent sweat-equity projects amongst all our clubs was providing volunteers to the Invista Centre Vaccination program, a very satisfying experience for all who helped.
If you ask Rotarians what projects they remember most warmly, they will usually mention these kinds of sweat-equity adventures. Rotary will continue to financially support local programs and services but helping community organizations with some unpaid physical labour truly builds stronger connections.