Humble Rotary club supplies area service groups with extra dough
- Written by Robert Kleeman
Hotel owner Philippe Cras didn’t know that Rotary clubs were helping to eradicate polio until he joined one in the Humble area. The Rotary Club of Humble International, a cadre of small business owners, community leaders, artists and workers, meets every Wednesday at noon at the Humble Civic Center. The Humble club is a branch of service organization Rotary International. At three meetings last month, the club handed out $14,500 to five area organizations, introduced two foreign exchange students who will spend a year in Houston, and spotlighted two groups supporting families who lost loved ones to military combat. Feed My Lambs Humble chapter, a group providing nutritious sack lunches to people in need, received $1,000 and the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, an interfaith group assisting residents in financial distress, received $1,500. The Village Learning and Achievement Center, a nonprofit organization offering programs for individuals with disabilities, and FamilyTime, a group assisting domestic violence victims, each received $5,000; The Humble Science Fair received $2,000. Cras, a former club president, said the Rotary will dole out more than $67,000 this year in donations to assist area organizations. He said the club will continue giving out money until it runs out. Group president Ken Austin challenged members to devote at least one day to help a local service organization. “You will be surprised the need that exists just 10 minutes down the road,” he said. “There is so much money available if we will just avail ourselves.” Diana Garbis, executive director of HAAM, said the group has partnered with Humble’s Rotary for 18 years. The group offers a job center, a resale shop, education and mentoring programs. Its self-sufficiency program aims to help clients meet long-term, career or education-oriented goals. “For example, a person might need work boots for his or her job but cannot afford them,” she said. “We’ll buy them those boots. We try to cover the little pockets of money that aren’t much, but that cover basic costs.” Kim Brusatori, founder of the Village Learning and Achievement Center, said the donation will help fund transportation for patients to the facility, work, shopping and the movie theater. “The Center started as a dream on a piece of paper,” she said. “We knew we had a God-given mission to help people in this community.” Brusatori said the Center now serves 170 people in the area and will need to grow to meet the demand. Bob Deister, an Humble Science Fair coordinator, said the club’s donation helps buy awards for competition winners. The awards usually consist of geodes or fossils on miniature trophy stands, he said. “Some of the awards are expensive; the kind I wish I had when I was a kid at the science fair,” he said. Judy Cox, executive director of FamilyTime, said the Rotary’s donation will finance a variety of services, including an upcoming adolescent anger management class. The organization hosts 10 interns and performs 300 hours of counseling per month. The organization operates a counseling center, a shelter and two thrift shops. “It takes about $500,000 a year to run this place,” she said. “Everything needs repair. It’s just like your house; everything breaks.” A crew of engine-revving motorcyclists and two mothers who lost sons through military combat attended the Aug. 27 meeting. The bikers, members of Patriot Guard, attend the funerals of fallen soldiers and shield their families from protesters using non violent means. American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. comforts moms who lost sons or daughters through military service. Peggy Slay, president of the organization’s Houston chapter, said her stepson was the 100th Texan killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan military conflicts. She said revamping the local chapter, the only active one in Texas, was a slow endeavor. “Many of the mothers were initially not ready to help,” she said. “We were all in our own processes of grieving.” Club members look for ways to help other families, she said. Rich Ford, who goes by his biker name Boomer, said Patriot Guard enlists 1,100 riders in southeast Texas. “We’re always just a phone call away,” Ford said. “We don’t insert ourselves, we have to be asked.” A pair of foreign exchange students will live with at least two host families in the next year to learn English and the United States’ customs and culture. Lauriane Mouly from Villefranche, France and Charline Salmin from Liege, Belgium, both 17, arrived less than three weeks ago. Mouly will attend Kingwood High School and Salmin will attend Quest High School. Both girls graduated from high schools in their respective countries. “I would like to meet people, become independent, to do something else,” Mouly said. Accountant Alan Derby said the Rotary’s student exchange program rose from recommendations made in the 1950s and ‘60s. The program enrolls more than 8,000 people from 80 countries each year, according to the Rotary International Web site. “This whole program is based on the fact that this world will be a safer place if we all get to know one another,” Derby said. Photos: (Top) Bob Deister, left, a Humble Science Fair coordinator, accepts a $2,000 check from Ken Austin, president of the Rotary Club of Humble Intercontinental. Deister said the money will fund awards for science fair winners. (Bottom) Charline Salmin from Belgium, left, and Lauriane Mouly from France, hold flags from their home countries. The exchange students will spend one year in Houston as part of a more than 75-year-old international Rotary program.