The RV Fellowship of Rotarians, which includes many FMCA members, combines a love for RVing with community service.
By J. Oliver Smith, F219539
FMCA members have an opportunity to belong to one or more of the association’s 480-plus chapters. In fact, some folks have told me that they believe the real fellowship in FMCA lies within these groups. Of course, a number of FMCAers also belong to fraternal and social organizations not affiliated with FMCA. One such club is the Recreational Vehicle (RV) Fellowship of Rotarians, North America “” part of a much larger group known as Rotary International.
Rotary International is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service, encourages high ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace throughout the world. The club originated in Chicago, Illinois, in 1905 when a lawyer named Paul Harris invited three other men to help him form a club of business leaders who would meet periodically to enjoy camaraderie and enlarge their circle of business and professional acquaintances. The small group quickly grew as others joined the Rotary Club of Chicago, so named because members began rotating their meetings among their places of business.
Today approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 31,000 clubs in 166 countries. In addition to national and international service activities, Rotary International has more than 90 independent fellowships that reflect vocational and recreational interests. Individual groups have been formed for lawyers, physicians, computer experts, and even those who have had heart surgery. Also included on the list is the RV Fellowship of Rotarians. However, it was not the first RVing fellowship in Rotary International.
That distinction belongs to the International Caravanning Fellowship of Rotarians (ICFR), which was founded by Robert Sutcliffe in England in 1967. The ICFR includes RVers “” commonly referred to as caravanners “” from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The group has more than 2,000 members who participate in rallies throughout the year and usually organize a caravan to rally at the Rotary International convention when it is held in Europe.
In 1971 several Rotarians in Islamorada, Florida, formed the RV Fellowship of Rotarians, North America. Rotary International recognized this group as a chartered fellowship in 1972, and today it has approximately 400 members. As with FMCA, this number represents families, not individuals, primarily from the United States and Canada. The fellowship is organized into four geographical zones: Central, Eastern, Mountain, and Pacific. Because of the European influence, the quarterly publication of the North American group is called “The Caravanner.”
The group organizes its national rallies in conjunction with Rotary International conventions when they are held in North America. The next scheduled Rotary International convention will celebrate Rotary’s 100th anniversary and take place June 18 through 22, 2005, at the McCormick Center in Chicago. At the same time, RV Fellowship will hold its national rally at Soldier Field, several blocks from the international convention.
Rotarians who belong to the fellowship are gregarious, honest, accommodating, adventurous people who enjoy being together. Sound familiar? And just like those who belong to FMCA, RV Fellowship members participate in rallies where they mingle at breakfasts, dinners, and social hours. As good Rotarians, they also adhere to the organization’s motto, “Service Above Self.” Any leftover money generated from rally registrations is contributed to local highway safety programs to assist emergency medical technicians, hospital emergency wards, and local fire departments.
In an effort to augment these funds, the Eastern zone began raffling off items contributed by fellowship members during their rallies. The items are sometimes of questionable value and may well be put back into the raffle at the next rally. All money collected “” no matter how many times an object is raffled “” goes to the highway safety fund. The annual contribution for highway safety has risen from several hundred dollars to several thousand. Other zones have begun holding these fun raffles at their rallies as well.
The people responsible for putting together RV Fellowship rallies are known as wagon masters. With a possible 30 to 40 recreation vehicles registering for the rallies, the wagon master’s duties include reserving spots at an RV park; scheduling meals, tours, recreation, and social times; and planning a visit to a local Rotary club. When I mentioned that an FMCA gathering, such as the Eastern Area Rally, could include more than a thousand motorhomes, a Rotary wagon master just rolled his eyes and said, “Wow!”
All four zones in the North American RV Fellowship hold annual regional rallies. Many Rotarians who are also FMCA members attend RV Fellowship rallies before or after an FMCA international convention, area rally, or chapter rally. And a number of these RVers are very active in their FMCA chapters.
David and Judith Farr, F261488, members of the Granite Staters chapter of FMCA, described their participation in the chapter’s “Lawn Chair Brigade” at a recent Rotarian rally. This lighthearted parade activity, a common sight at some FMCA rallies, is unknown to most RVing Rotarians. Although the Farrs were asked to provide a demonstration of their lawn chair “moves,” they declined, saying that with just the two of them, it would be like watching a stadium wave with only two people. They suggested that interested Rotarians visit an FMCA event where the Granite Staters perform, such as the Northeast Area Rally.
Many times rallying Rotarians gather in the early evening for an “attitude adjustment,” and later around the campfire to exchange tales. Unfortunately, they do not have the benefit of being entertained by the Frustrated Maestros “” members of one or more FMCA chapters dedicated to sharing music and fellowship. It took a little coaxing, but at a recent Rotarian rally, Bob and Jean Hadley, F83180, who belong to three Frustrated Maestros chapters, brought out their banjos. Alas, like the Lawn Chair Brigade, they felt that a band of just two banjos was not sufficient to give folks a true idea of what the Frustrated Maestros do. Appreciative Rotarians with qualifying motorhomes were urged to join FMCA, if they were not already members, and attend a rally where the Frustrated Maestros play.
As a member of FMCA and president elect of the RV Fellowship of Rotarians, I have had the opportunity to discuss FMCA’s benefits with RV Fellowship members, and vice versa. If you’re interested in learning more about the RV Fellowship of Rotarians, visit our Web site at www.rvfellowshipofrotary.org.