URI Rotaract inspires the spirit of giving

Student organization collects record breaking donations, hosts clothing drives for kids, encourages others to adopt a family

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URI Rotaract
URI Rotaract promoting their Spirit of Giving project. Photo courtesy of URI Rotaract

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 4, 2018 — How’s this for a nice holiday story? Even with the pressures of the fall semester coming to a close, a few dozen members of the University of Rhode Island’s Rotaract collected more than 900 pounds of food, a record for the student organization.

Affiliated with Rotary International, the 60-plus-member organization is committed to professional development, leadership cultivation, and community service.

Throughout the year, members participate in community service all over Rhode Island. They continue to plan service events on and off campus, raising money for local charities and collecting warm clothing for those in need.

Rotaract Donations
From left to right: Joy Norris, Dakota Grenier, Charles Housemann, and Matthew Wulbrecht. Photo courtesy of URI Rotaract

“Service above self, that’s our motto,” said Dakota Grenier, a junior nursing major with minors in leadership studies and thanatology. URI Rotaract was the first organization Grenier joined as a first-year student. Today, she serves as the organization’s president and is dedicated to instilling a passion for service in the URI community.

“The beauty of Rotaract is that our members do not join for benefits. Our members are simply committed to serve others,” said the Coventry, R.I. resident. “However, we do learn and grow so much through service. We gain a new perspective, new connections, and a new family.”

The student organization has experienced a 50 percent increase in members since last year. Today, the members proudly call themselves “Rotaractors.”

Rotaractors meet every Monday at 6 p.m. in Quinn Hall on the Kingston Campus. The meeting begins with a tradition called “Happy Buck.” Each member tosses a dollar bill into a donation basket while sharing their highlight of the day, the perfect introduction to an hour full of service talk, event planning and team building.

When asked how the URI Rotaract club has influenced her time here at the University, Grenier said, “I now feel the responsibility to serve those who don’t have the same privilege and ability as I do. This club has instilled selflessness, dedication, and teamwork in me. I try to live by those values every day” she said. “I am a better friend, a better student, and hopefully one day better nurse because of Rotaract.”

Grenier is supported by her fellow executive board members who assist in facilitating meetings and organizing service events.

“No matter who you are or where you come from, service can always teach you something new,” said Joy Norris, junior chemical engineering major from Bay Shore, New York. Norris also joined URI Rotaract as a first-year student and now serves the organization as the vice president.

“The moment I truly realized the importance of service was at our ‘Buy One More’ event,” said Norris.

Buy One More has become an annual tradition for the student organization. Members go to a local grocery store and encourage customers to buy an extra grocery item for donation. The Rotaractors then organize the items and donate them to the Jonnycake Center, a food pantry in Wakefield, Rhode Island.

“Seeing so many customers donate items and seeing our donation bins overflow made my heart full. I knew that these grocery items were a quick purchase for many customers, however, it would soon become dinner for someone in need.”

“It’s fun and extremely rewarding. I get to connect with other members through service and witness our organization make a difference in the community,” said Matthew Wulbrecht, a junior supply chain management major with a minor in leadership studies from Falmouth, Maine.

Wulbrecht serves as the organization’s treasurer and says the position has supported his growth in and out of the classroom.

“URI Rotaract can give any student the opportunity to become a leader. You build relationships with other students, community members, and experience philanthropy in a new way.” said Wulbrecht.

When asked how the organization decides on its service projects, project coordinator Charles Housemann said, “Every single Rotaract project has a clear intention. Before we follow through with it, we asked ourselves if the act of service is truthful, fair, and beneficial to all concerned.” Housemann is a junior civil engineering major from Cheshire, Connecticut.

“It’s my duty to make sure our members understand the impact they can make at every service event,” he said.

URI Rotaract is now partnering with Rhode Island Children’s Friends for the “Spirit of Giving” project. Children’s Friends is a nonprofit that improves the well-being and health development of children in need. URI Rotaractors are encouraging all other URI student organizations to adopt a family for the holiday season.

“We’re just getting started. Change starts right here, right now, at URI. This campus has 14,726 students all with unique talents, knowledge, and voices. It’s time we all start using those strengths for good.” said Grenier when asked what Rotaract has in store.

“There is power in numbers. None of us can make lasting, meaningful change alone, but together… there’s no limit to what we can achieve.”

Click here to learn how you can give to a family in need.

This press release was written by Josh Reyes, a senior public relations major and intern at URI Marketing and Communications.