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100-year-old Buckhannon Rotary Club loses charter, new club to be formed

BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon Rotary Club is dissolving, and a new club will be formed in its place.

“Recently a situation arose concerning your Buckhannon Rotary Club,” the board of directors wrote in a press release announcing the club’s termination Tuesday. “The club formed over 100 years ago serving and partnering in humanitarian support for Buckhannon and the residents of Upshur County. While celebrating the 100th anniversary, situations arose between some members of the Buckhannon club and a representative from another club.”

“Accusations and demands impacting the status of the Buckhannon club members increased to the stage that Rotary International desired the members’ separation from not only the Buckhannon club but also Rotary International,” the release continues. “Based on facts provided, the Buckhannon Rotary board, with initial support of the members of the club, made the decision that the members would not be separated from the club.”

At that point, Rotary International told the local club they could lose their charter, according to the release.

“Rotary therefore demanded the members be separated or the Buckhannon club would lose its Rotary charter” the release states. “With this impasse continuing and the local board feeling that the members had been wrongfully accused, Rotary International has decided to end Buckhannon’s charter effective 1 August 2019.”

When contacted for comment, Laurie S. McCarthy, Director of Member Support for Rotary International, confirmed that she sent a letter to Robert Kincaid, President of the Rotary Club of Buckhannon, earlier this month concerning termination of the club.

“I am saddened to advise that on 1 August 2019, the Rotary Club of Buckhannon will be terminated by the RI board for its failure to terminate the memberships of Ms. Mary Dean and Ms. Jody Light for cause and in accordance with the RI board policy regarding harassment,” McCarthy writes in the letter, dated July 22, 2019.

“Members of the Rotary Club of Buckhannon, excluding Ms. Dean and Ms. Light, are welcome to join neighboring Rotary clubs or to start a new Rotary club,” the letter continues. “Any Rotary club that might accept Ms. Dean or Ms. Light into its membership would be advised of the board’s decision, its policy on harassment, and asked to immediately terminate their membership or face termination of their entire club.”

McCarthy declined to expand on Rotary International’s decision.

“The safety and well-being of our members and program participants is our highest priority. The Rotary Club of Buckhannon is scheduled for termination on August 1, 2019, for its failure to terminate the memberships of Ms. Mary Dean and Ms. Jody Light for cause and in accordance with Rotary International board policy regarding harassment, following the culmination of a local investigation into a matter involving these two individuals,” McCarthy wrote in an email to My Buckhannon. “I am unable to offer further commentary at this time.”

Light said she loved the club and disagreed with Rotary’s decision.

“There’s a whole lot to this that people don’t know,” Light told My Buckhannon last week. “Resigning implies guilt, and there is none. I love the club.”

Light said she believes in Rotary International’s mission and has been a member in excess of 20 years. She also said Rotary International made the decision based on incomplete information.

“[The Rotary International Board] heard one side of it, and one side of it only, but they will hear the other side,” Light said. “When the facts and the truth come out, it will paint a very different picture.”

In Tuesday’s press release, the Buckhannon Rotary board wrote that they are in the process of distributing their assets to local community organizations.

“The club is now in the process of distributing its assets and paying all outstanding obligations/commitments,” the release states. “To do this properly, the recipient organizations must be of a humanitarian nature and benefit the community in its entirety, not a single focused group. For fairness the following has been determined recipients of proceeds from the club and its board members. Proceeds will be directed to benefit community humanitarian needs and shortfalls within the following departments. General guidance will be issued to each organization on the use of funding.”

  • Local Volunteer Fire Departments across the county — Adrian VFD, Selbyville VFD, Washington VFD, Ellamore VFD, Buckhannon VFD, Banks VFD, Warren VFD and Buckhannon Fire Dept.
  • Elementary Schools across the county — Hodgesville Elementary, Rock Cave Elementary, Washington District Elementary, French Creek Elementary, Tennerton Elementary, Union Elementary and Buckhannon Academy Elementary
  • Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, Buckhannon-Upshur High School and Fred Eberle Vocational Center
  • Pre-K School Activities — Rock Cave Pre-K, Washington District Pre-K, Hodgesville Pre-K, Buckhannon Academy Pre-K, Union Pre-K and French Creek Pre-K
  • Upshur County EMS
  • Buckhannon Police Department and Upshur Sheriff’s Department

One of the local Rotary club’s main community service efforts – biannual blood screenings – will still be held moving forward.

St. Joseph’s Hospital sent out a press release last week saying the blood screenings would continue, setting the dates of Oct. 5 and Oct. 12 for the fall screenings.

“St. Joseph’s Hospital would like to thank the members of the Buckhannon Rotary Club for their assistance with the blood screenings over the many past years,” the release says. “The hospital wants to assure the community that it will continue to provide these affordable screenings.”

Last Wednesday, Lisa Wharton, vice president for marketing and public relations with St. Joseph’s Hospital, said it’s important for the community to know the screenings won’t be going away.

“We just want to reassure the community the blood screening is going to go on just as it always has,” she told My Buckhannon. “We have the dates scheduled. It will still be the affordable cost of getting blood tests for 90 percent less than what it would normally cost you, because the point is to encourage people to get these tests done. Over the years, people have found things, caught them early and been able to save their health.”

Wharton, a member of the Buckhannon Rotary Club, also distributed a press release Tuesday afternoon stating that a new Rotary club will be forming in Upshur County.

“A new Rotary club is now being formed in Buckhannon and prospective members are invited to join,” the release reads. “This is in response to Rotary International’s decision to revoke the existing club’s charter due to the current board’s refusal to follow directives issued by Rotary International, a board decision not widely supported by the current club’s membership.”

The members seeking to form a new club are committed to continuing their service to the community, according to the release.

“The Buckhannon Rotary Club had a history of over 100 years of service to the community and members feel that it is extremely unfortunate that this occurred,” the release reads. “However, many current members are committed to continuing their service to the community through Rotary.

“Rotary is an international service organization whose motto is ‘Service Above Self.’  Its mission is to provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through a fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.”

The new club will meet next Tuesday, Aug. 6, at Chapel Hill UMC and prospective members are urged to attend.

“The next meeting for the new Rotary club will be held on Tuesday, August 6, at noon at the Chapel Hill United Methodist Church,” according to the release. “The discussion will include preparing the application for formation of a new club and naming a slate of officers and directors.  For more information about joining the new Rotary Club or to be placed into consideration for an officer position, please call 304-439-8421 or 304-472-4541.”

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