Ask Scott McAdam, the co-owner of McAdam Landscaping on Desplaines Ave., about the Rotary Club, and he will often respond with a long, enthusiastic testimony about the virtues of the organization.
In an email to the Review, he wrote, “Rotary has been an amazing experience for me and has transformed my life. Rotary can change the lives of its members as we are an active organization with a true vision to change the world for the better.”
As McAdam finished his term as president of the Oak Park River Forest Rotary Club, he noticed two things. First, he realized that many Forest Parker residents were members of the OPRF club. Second, as he looked west of Harlem where his business is located, he concluded that Forest Park would be a viable location for starting what Rotarians call a satellite club, i.e. a start-up club which remains under the care of an established group until it’s able to function on its own.
He recruited Mark Hosty and Tom Mannix, two Forest Park commissioners who run small businesses in town, to help him turn the vision into a reality. Since meeting for the first time in the early summer of this year, the fledgling group has expanded to 6-8 regulars who meet at 6 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month at Healy’s.
“Right now we’re loosely structured,” said Mannix, “because we’re doing recruitment, recruitment, recruitment.”
“When we get 10-12 members, we’ll elect officers and when we get 25 members, we’ll apply to Rotary International to become our own chapter. While we are a satellite of the Oak Park River Forest Club we can leverage a lot from them, since they are strong and have a nice core infrastructure.”
“I am personally enthusiastic about this,” Mannix added, “because Rotary helps support other nonprofits, and that means that I can do good to help support the Forest Park food pantry, which is something I care very deeply about.”
When asked why a Rotary Club was being started in a small town which already has a Kiwanis Club, McAdam replied, “The uniqueness of Rotary is that we work locally, nationally and internationally. We have been able to bridge barriers that most other organizations have been unable to do. Another important thing to know is that every dollar given to the Rotary Foundation goes back out to fund projects.”
Mannix responded this way: “We’re not in competition with Kiwanis. They are a little bit different group and have a little different mission, but there is no reason why a person can’t be members of both. My wife is a member of Kiwanis. Next year, in fact, when Kiwanis sells peanuts, our Rotary group will staff a whole day, because we’re not here in competition with any group. We’re here to help everybody.”
Mannix, in effect, was contending that volunteerism isn’t a zero sum game when he drew an analogy between Rotary and Madison Street.
“It’s going to increase volunteerism in our community, the same way another good bar or restaurant or clothing store is going to increase foot traffic on Madison Street which is good for all of the businesses,” he said.
“Starting another group won’t necessarily be taking people away from the churches either. Some people may not be comfortable volunteering in a church or they might not be available when churches sponsor charitable activities.”
Responding to the fact that a large majority of business owners in town do not live in Forest Park, Mannix said, “Obviously, if you have a business here, you have a vested interest in the community. I hope we get a good mix of business people and residents.”
McAdam’s enthusiasm for Rotary comes partly from their charitable work both globally and locally. He said, “Locally we delivered 2,800 dictionaries to third-grade students in Forest Park, Oak Park, River Forest, Berwyn, Cicero and a couple of schools in Austin. Worldwide we have helped to almost eradicate polio. We have funded this effort to the tune of about 1 billion dollars since 1982. Rotary through its foundation has provided over $1.5 billion to humanitarian programs that promote literacy, alleviate hunger, provide safe water and advance peace.”
He’s also inspired by the organization’s values. He said that Rotarians try to live their lives by what they refer to as the Four Way Test:
1 Is it the Truth?
2 Is it fair to all concerned?
3 Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4 Will it be beneficial to all concerned?