Here is an essay by our member Rotarian Cynthia, reflecting on the changes that have come about in Rotary in a very short time.  Take a minute to reflect and enjoy.................................. 


The Women of Rotary 


Cynthia Fraley, Rotarian & Staff Writer

Imagine being invited to a Rotary Club meeting prior to July 1, 1989.  Who would you be and what would you see?   Well, straighten your tie, because you would be a man walking into a room full of men.

It's hard to believe that in our not too distant past women were barred from joining men's service clubs like Rotary, Elks, Lions, Kiwanis and the Moose Lodge.  But, in a classic tit for tat, men were also not welcome to join women's service clubs like Altrusa, Quota, Soroptomist, Zonta and Pilot Club.

For over 89 years, service clubs, the epitome of goodwill and good works, unwittingly practiced one of the tenets they opposed - discrimination.  But today there are almost 200,000 female Rotarians, many serving in positions of leadership.  What started as a trickle 25 years ago is becoming a wave, changing the face of Rotary both locally and internationally.

Lynne Reilly led the way for women in the Centerville Rotary Club, joining shortly after Rotary International officially  voted in 1989 to eliminate its constitutional restriction that membership be limited to men.  Reilly went on to become the first female president of the Centerville Rotary Club in 1996. Twelve years later another female president, Carol Kennard, was elected, followed by Kim Senft-Paras last year and Judy Budi this year.

Under the leadership of Senft-Paras, the Club recently received the prestigious Rotary Presidential Citation, one of only 2 clubs out of 52 in the district to do so.  As demonstrated by this award, each of these female leaders have built on the work of their male counterparts, and working alongside them, have moved the club into being one of the most dynamic and well-run service clubs in the area.  "Working enthusiastically with other Rotarians to take an idea and convert it to a plan of action to produce meaningful, quality, relevant results for the community certainly reflects our Rotary motto, "Service Above Self", Senft-Paras said.

But these female leaders are not alone.  Today, 20% of Centerville Rotary Club members are women, compared to 15% internationally.  They include Sally Beals, Judy Budi, Deb Dulaney, Gerry Eastabrooks, Cynthi Fraley, Monica Hughley, Carol Kennard, Sharon Lowry, Kim Senft-Paras, Kitty Ullmer and Joyce Young.  And they are a mighty force.  Most serve as an officer, committee chair, active committee member, or combination of all three.  And most of them you probably know from their active community work outside of Rotary, in banking, education, library services, operations management, politics, older adult services, park preservation and community volunteerism.

Since the distinction was first established in 2008, two out of four 'Rotarians of the Year' have been women - Kim Senft-Paras and Carol Kennard.  Kennard was presented with this year's award at the club's annual meeting on July 11, 2013.

A Centerville Rotary Club member since 2001, Kennard has had her hands in all aspects of club operations over the years, making her the one to go to for club information.  One of her current roles is Club Affairs Director, overseeing the club's fundraising efforts including the annual pancake breakfast that now raises over $18,000 for local and international service projects and scholarships.  And if you visit you will see the results of Kennard's other role as PR Committee Chair; she manages the club's social and news media and acts as club photographer.  In her opinion, "Providing service to others is a reward for the heart and soul, and the dedication of this club to make a difference in our community is the driving force behind my desire to be a Centerville Rotarian".

It should come as no surprise that as the first service club to be established in 1905, Rotary would also be the first to break the gender barrier to club participation, creating a ripple effect across all men's and women's service clubs.  Granted, the decision did not come easily but it has definitely come without regret - the future of all services clubs has been strengthened by membership diversity and the blending of male and female talents so as to maximize the strengths of all.

As she begins to lead the Centerville Rotary Club into the future, Budi reflected, "Our theme this year is 'Engage Rotary, Change Lives'.  The women and men of our club are changing lives by coming together for a common purpose - to make our world a better place.  Rotary has provided me the opportunity to interact with other dynamic community leaders, which is rewarding personally and professionally.  I encourage everyone to consider this opportunity for themselves."