Joe Jones, of Iola, is passionate about Rotary.
“It is a wonderful humanitarian organization,” he said.
Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million business and professional leaders who belong to more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographic areas. It is one of the largest international humanitarian service organizations in the world.
Jones will serve as 2011-12 district governor for Rotary International District 6220, serving northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s upper pennisula. On the recommendation of five previous district governors, he was appointed as a district governor nominee in May 2009. His one-year reign will begin July 1.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “It’s basically the only decision-making position in the district.”
The district governor has final approval on decisions concerning grants, activities committee chair appointments and any other issues. As governor, Jones plans to add two new committees – Social Networking, to handle Facebook, Twitter and other Internet accounts; and a mentoring to assist clubs that need additional guidance.
One of his district governor duties as required by Rotary International is to visit each club in the district. On these visits, Jones is excited to deliver the message that “Rotary, unlike many other service organizations, is not a top down organization, it is a bottom up organization.”
“I am able to accept this time-consuming position because my son, Ryan, is running the company and working toward becoming president and owner of Jones Publishing,” said Jones, who founded the Iola-based publishing company on March 1, 1986, with his wife, Maggie.
As a member of the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club, Jones knows that serving as district governor will benefit the club and the local area.
The 2012 annual district conference will be held in Waupaca. Attending will be 300 Rotarians. Chris Anthony, of Waupaca, will serve as the conference chair.
“This gives us a great opportunity to showcase the Waupaca area,” Jones said.
Local businesses will also benefit, and Jones expects to see an increase in Rotary membership.
As district governor, Jones will be helping the district distribute Power Flower to malnourished children around the world, a movement that began in his district. Each serving of malt flour costs about one-third of a cent.
“We think this is going to be the greatest thing since ice cream,” Jones said. “It’s really a very big deal because it’s happening throughout Rotary, spreading worldwide, and it began in our district.”
The impact of the project is that thousands of lives will be saved and thousands will become healthy productive citizens.
Following a week of intense training in San Diego, Calif., Joe and Maggie Jones are ready and excited about the new duties. “Rotary prepares us well,” Jones said. Attending were people from throughout the world, including India, Pakistan and Japan.
“It was a truly international affair,” Jones said. “It really emphasizes the point that Rotary is an organization without borders.”
It’s the international focus of Rotary International that sets it apart from other organizations.
“So many of the things we do involve international projects and the promotion of world peace,” Jones said.
Over the years, his district has hosted youth from more than 300 countries, and young people from district 6220 have participated in one-year exchanges with countries all throughout the world.
Another way Rotary promotes world peace is through the Group Study Exchange program in which a Rotary team leader takes four non-Rotarian adults, between the ages of 25 and 40, on a one-month exchange with another of the 534 districts located throughout the world.
Next year’s district-to-district exchange is with the Hiroshima district of Japan. Non-Rotarians are encouraged to apply. The requirements are that a person lives or works in the district, is employed, has no immediate family member that belongs to Rotary and is between the ages of 25-40.
“It has a positive effect helping to promote world peace and it’s a great learning experience,” Jones stated.
In fact, the Group Study Exchange program led to his involvement with Rotary International.
In 1998, Joe Jones participated in an exchange trip to Japan as a Rotary team member. He believes he was chosen in part because he speaks the language.
It was such a great experience and so well organized by Rotary that upon his return, Jones joined the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club. He has been a very active member ever since.
“Rotary is growing everywhere throughout the world, except in the U.S.,” he said. “We do a lot of good all over the world.”
One thing Jones has learned through Rotary is “what really matters is not the size of your house or your bank account, but what you give back.”
The Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club currently has 68 members and meets at 7 a.m. every Wednesday morning at the Best Western Grand Seasons Hotel. For more information on joining Rotary, contact any club member, call Jones at 715-445-5000, ext. 117 or attend a local meeting.
Rotary’s top philanthropic goal is to eradicate polio worldwide. Since 1985, Rotary members have contributed more than $900 million and countless volunteer hours to help immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries.
“When we began, polio existed in 300 countries,” Jones said. “Now it only exists in four – Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and one state in India.”
The threat of polio anywhere is a threat to children everywhere. Unless we succeed in eradicating the disease, experts say polio could rebound to 10 million cases in the next 40 years, negating the world’s $6 billion global investment.
Because the polio virus has no animal host, once polio is eradicated, it will not return.
“It can be done and it will be done,” Jones said.
Rotary International has partnered with the World Health Organization, and Rotary is the driving force to provide the polio vaccine.
The last four countries, Jones admits, are the hardest because many locals don’t trust foreigners to vaccinate their children. Even local volunteers have a hard time convincing them that the vaccine will save lives.
The eradication of polio is of utmost importance to the Central Wisconsin area, Jones noted. In 1955, when the disease was at its height in the United States, the Appleton area had the largest per capita cases of polio in the country.
“We are a prime target because of our climate,” Jones explained.
Rotary members are currently working to raise another $200 million by 2012 to match a $355 million challenge grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.