Top: The Rotary Club of Melbourne, Florida, sponsored the first Interact Club, chartered at Melbourne High School, in 1962. Rotarians and Interactors (center) pose for a picture. Bottom: A recreation of the photo with current Interactors and members of the sponsoring Rotary club. Photo courtesy of Rotary Club of Melbourne.

The very first Interact club, formed at Melbourne High School in Melbourne, Florida, USA, is joining Interact clubs and their sponsors around the globe in celebrating the program’s 50th anniversary during World Interact Week, 5-11 November.

The Melbourne club received its charter in November 1962, under the guidance and sponsorship of the Rotary Club of Melbourne, Florida, USA. In celebration of the golden anniversary, charter members of the club joined current Interactors and Rotarians from District 6930 for a night of reflection and fellowship.

“What makes Rotary great is what makes Interact great,” says Michael Welch, president of the Rotary Club of Melbourne, who helped plan the anniversary event. “For a person -- especially a young person, an Interactor -- to appreciate the concept of Service Above Self, and then put it to work on their own time, it’s a special experience that can change a lot of lives.”

As part of the celebration, Melbourne Interactors gave a presentation on the history of Interact. District Governor-nominee Juan Ortega explained how his experiences with Interact in Colombia led him to join Rotary.

The present-day Interactors and their sponsors also re-created an iconic photo of their club that appeared in The Rotarian in 1962.

Texas Interactors

The Interact Club of Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown, Texas, USA, which was chartered just months after the club in Melbourne, is celebrating the anniversary with various events, including a roundup on 15 September that was attended by more than 320 Interactors from across District 5890.

The Texas Interactors created a video showing photos and projects from the past five decades, in addition to networking with fellow Interactors and Rotarians. The Interactors and the Rotary Club of Baytown, which sponsors the club, presented two cakes, one to mark their club’s anniversary and the other for the Interact program.

The celebrations continued 27 September as RI President Sakuji Tanaka spoke at an all-club meeting held by the district. Garrett Kneese, a district Interact leader, discussed the importance of Interact and Rotary.

The Interactors are also conducting service projects to mark the anniversary. District Interactors went door-to-door with their Rotary sponsors on 31 October collecting nonperishable food for the district’s Interact Hungry Harvest program. The club set a goal of donating 3,000 cans to local food pantries and issued a challenge to other Interact clubs to match their efforts.

As an ongoing service project, the Interactors sort and pack used textbooks for Rotary Books for the World, a literacy project that collects reading and writing materials for schools in the developing world.

Tommie Buscemi, a member of the Rotary Club of Kingwood, Texas, USA, and cochair of the district’s Interact committee, says she’s seen how Interact has benefited its members by showing them how valuable they are to their community. “They’re the future of our country and the future of Rotary,” she says. “The program rewards them for being great leaders. They step up and do what’s important.”

Buscemi adds that Rotary clubs can also benefit by working with Interactors. “They inspire Rotarians to look at things differently,” she says. “They’re teaching us, through social media, how we can change the way we’re doing things and how we can make a bigger impact.”

Other celebrations

In San Antonio, Texas, District 5840 is holding its third annual New Generations Interact Conference at The Winston School San Antonio on 10 November. Tom Thorfinnson, a past RI director and vice president, will be the keynote speaker.

Five Interact clubs are working with Habitat for Humanity on a building project in January, and 12 Interact clubs are raising money for wells in Honduras. Interactors are holding fundraisers, including a golf tournament and a 5K run, in an attempt to raise US$11,500. The district has also created pins commemorating the 50th anniversary for Interactors.

You can celebrate the 50th anniversary by:

  •  Entering a short video in our annual Interact video contest. Interact clubs may choose one of three themes related to the 50th anniversary.
  • Promoting Peace Through Service by designing a postcard to illustrate how Interact contributes to peace and understanding. One winning Interactor and his or her parent will receive round-trip airfare on United Airlines to attend one of the three upcoming Rotary Global Peace Forums, to be determined by Rotary International. Read the complete rules and guidelines.
  • Challenging your club to hold an event or each Interactor to raise US$50 for Rotary’s fight to eradicate polio.
  • Organizing a project that involves 50 positive actions in one of Rotary’s areas of focus. Examples include donating 50 books to support basic education and literacy or organizing a community forum with 50 young people.
  • Sharing photos of your club’s World Interact Week activities on the Interact Facebook page.