I have a friend in Westfield, Massachusetts, who spent my entire nine years in that community trying to persuade me to join the local Rotary club. My typical response: “Go play in traffic!” To me, Rotary was a bunch of old white men having lunch each week. I had no interested in understanding it, and even less interest in being a part of it.

In 2004, having recently moved to San Diego, I needed to bolster my local professional network. While attending a Chamber of Commerce event I allowed myself to be persuaded to check out a single breakfast meeting of the Rancho Bernardo Sunrise Rotary club. I was pleasantly surprised to see men and women of various ethnic, political and religious persuasions, aged 25-95, sitting side-by-side and sharing the goal of improving the world around them.

Naturally, I immediately joined the group…and stayed for the next 15 years.

My original objective in joining Rotary International was the search for business connections. True, I got all that, but I also got SO much more!

I’d still be among those wonderful people if my daughter’s college graduation hadn’t prompted my wife and I to sell our house and relocate to Carlsbad. Even before I’d finished unpacking, my first professional move was to join the Carlsbad Rotary Club, where I’m now settling in.

Switching clubs was more emotional than I anticipated, as the folks in RB had become friends and family. True, I’d done some business with many over the years, but that was secondary to the value and quality of the relationships I’d forged.

Over the past few years I’ve also learned the value of visiting other clubs around the world, where the Rotary pin on my lapel acts as my entrée to rooms full of strangers who immediately accept me as one of their own.

Rotarians globally share a mindset of Service Above Self, translating for me to hundreds of new friends who say what they mean without a hidden agenda. This is a global group of professionals who will quickly offer help to anyone needing any kind of assistance.

Admittedly, at the moment I’m feeling like a stranger in a strange land, yet I’m already looking forward to becoming part of this club’s fabric. In time I know we’ll build houses for the homeless, distribute dictionaries, provide services to housebound seniors, and aid disaster survivors half a world away. I’ll continue meeting amazing people I’d never encounter any other way, and remain active at the District and Regional levels.

Because there’s no better feeling than improving the lives of people you’ll never see again, merely because it’s the right thing to do. That’s why I’ve used my marketing skills to train thousands of Rotarians to communicate with their local communities. It’s been incredibly satisfying knowing I’ve played some small part in helping Rotary club leaders improve their branding, strategic planning, and message outreach.

And now that I have a new Rotary home, I’m excited about sharing ideas I’ve acquired from other clubs about ways the Carlsbad Rotary can raise huge sums of money that will get returned to the local neighborhood…and beyond.

Joining Rotary has provided me a vehicle for returning something to the community that’s given me a good life. The relationships I’ve built over the years have helped make my personal and professional life better. I see my continued relationship with Rotary to be the framework for a VERY bright future.

Please plan to join me Thursdays at the Hilton Garden Inn, 6450 Carlsbad Blvd. We meet at 6:15 pm, and I’m finding it’s a wonderful way to end the workday. Or you can go to http://bit.ly/carlsbad_rotary to learn more.

Whether you visit online or join us for dinner, though, you’ll quickly discover the people are amazing, the organization has a global impact, and the experience of being involved with this group is one you’ll never forget.