Rotarians to show off Surry, help world polio effort


First Posted: 4/28/2009

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation earlier this year pledged $255 million on top of an earlier $100 million pledge to help fund the Rotarys commitment to eradicating polio from the face of the planet.
The only caveat was that Rotary International had to match that earlier $100 million pledge with $100 million of its own.
To do so, according to Bob Meinecke, the president-elect of the Mount Airy Rotary Club, each Rotary Club around the world must raise $3,000 during the next three years.
He doesnt want to wait that long.
Meinecke is already preparing to put together a new fundraising event, tentatively set for spring of 2010, called The Best of Surry.
It would include tours of restaurants, wineries, music, a regional event, he said. The festival would really be a showcase of what Surry has to offer to local residents and visitors, and making the event a destination activity for travelers.
He also sees The Best of Surry as growing into an annual shindig that would benefit a wide variety of people and organizations. The way he sees it, visitors to the area would come here specifically for the day, eating in area restaurants, shopping at stores and wineries, different charities would be designated to receive some of the proceeds, and even the county would benefit through tax revenue generated from sales.
Every single person who is involved will benefit, he said.
The first time, though, much of the money would go to the local Rotary clubs commitment to helping match the Gates money and erasing polio from existence.
Polio was once a widely feared disease, even in the United States, where outbreaks often resulted in hundreds of deaths, and often left survivors permanently incapacitated with permanent nerve damage.
While it is virtually unknown in the United States and much of the rest of the world, the virus still runs rampant in Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.
The Rotarian effort is reminiscent of the effort in the 1970s to eradicate small pox, an often deadly and disabling disease that was feared throughout much of the undeveloped world prior to the eradication program. There hasnt been a confirmed case of small pox, outside of a laboratory mishap, in more than three decades, and Rotary officials hope to soon claim elimination of polio.
That Rotary is involved in such a program should not be a surprise. Meinecke said the international organization has for years worked to meet grassroots, front-line health needs in developing countries. The organization has help build clean fresh water wells in Nigeria, worked in water sanitation projects in Mexico, and taken on similar tasks in many parts of the world.
While improving health for average people in these countries is the motivating factor, Meinecke said such work can have even far-reaching political ramifications as well.
You can sit down and talk about peace with people a lot easier if you take care of their basic needs, he said.
Contact John Peters at [email protected] or 719-1931.

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