“Everett Hill’s Modern Influence” – Tim Berney
Everett W. Hill is the only Rotary International President that was a member of Club 29. He held the office in 1924-1925 and, according to his bio was a highly successful businessman as well as an avid fisherman. As the story goes, he only made it to his office one time in the year that he served as District Governor. My assumption is that he was not only a great leader with very capable managers running his ice and cold storage facilities, but that he felt called to serve others. Mr. Hill lost his $2 million fortune during the Great Depression, but that didn’t lessen his involvement in Rotary and other causes that he believed in. He eventually became an author, farmer and had many adventures in his 94 years exploring cultures and viewpoints that were in contrast with his own. Regardless of his location or situation, he was an active member of Rotary, staying in touch with happenings on the International level and reporting back to Club 29.
I wonder what motivated Mr. Hill to commit so much of his time that he was a worthy candidate for president of Rotary International. Was it the exchange of ideas and development of friendships that Paul Harris envisioned? Was Rotary the conduit for Everett to personally give back to the community?
This year, I was able to serve on our club’s OnePledge/Project committee. I’ve been on it many times before, among a whole lot of other worthwhile committees. The project committee is the most time consuming, but also the most rewarding. We review grant applications (77 in total this year), narrow them down, have healthy debate, and eventually choose one that we would like the club to fund. That only puts us halfway there because we have to raise the money to fund the project as well. We needed $90,000 this year to fund the Jesus House kitchen, plus the dictionary project, Junior Rotarian scholarships, and our share of the District and International grants. That takes some work too, including the not so coveted action of personally asking fellow members to make their donation. There was only a handful of us on the committee led by Cliff Dougherty. But we did it. You did it. As a result, the Jesus House can continue to serve over 400 low income and homeless Oklahomans every day. Young adults who share our values will get some assistance to attend college. Every 3rd grader in OKC will have a dictionary. The District grant goes toward a cargo van for the Homeless Alliance. And the International grant helps to fund a water well in a poor town in Morocco.
Personally, I experienced Paul Harris’ founding vision of a terrific exchange of ideas through our committee meetings and email threads. I also got to work alongside a few Rotarians whom I can call lifelong friends, and hopefully began another long friendship or two.
Nearly 100 years after Everett Hill represented Club 29 in Rotary’s highest office, I hope that we are pursuing his vision as well. His commitment to service was evident in his words, his actions, and even in his work as an author. ‘There are too many dark corners which need the rays of happiness’ he wrote in one of his poems. The OnePledge/Project committee is just one of the many ways that EVERY Club 29 Rotarian can honor the legacy of Everett W. Hill. Perhaps the greatest gift that Rotary can provide to us is allowing us to shine rays of happiness in the darkest corners of our community. The Jesus House would agree.