Jim's Rotary Story - 'Service Above Self' and a whole lot more!

August 07, 2018

Jim's Rotary Story - 'Service Above Self' and a whole lot more!

As you are traveling about this great country, you may see a sign with a Rotary insignia as you enter various towns and cities, large and small. Rotary is one of the world's premier international humanitarian service organizations. Going way beyond the USA, this global organization is a diverse network consisting of community, business and professional leaders who have adopted the motto 'service above self'. Addressing relevant and pertinent social causes, the Rotary club. through its individual members, strives to change lives and build goodwill and peace through amazing projects here at home and abroad.

Every Rotarian has his or her own story of why they joined and what the organization means to them. Here is my husband Jim's Rotary story:

"It was 1968; I was 16 years old.  In our high school was a Rotary exchange student from Sweden named Amy Yngve. She was fun, smart, and cute!  We became friends, and she challenged me to consider being an exchange student with Rotary.  Back then, it was very competitive, and I remember well the process. But soon enough I was accepted into the program to Sweden, my first choice!   I arrived by train to the town of Falun--about 3.5 hours from Stockholm--the same town Amy was from.  She was a great help and remains friends to this day.

Although the first several months were difficult--especially learning Swedish, and lonely, I soon developed friendships---especially with one guy named Olle  Ahlmark!  We became great friends, and he was responsible for my year being so successful.

During my year in Sweden, I had 3  great families, and although I have lost all my "parents", I remain in close contact with my Swedish siblings--of which 8 have been to visit me!

Over the years Olle and I have seen each other many times--one trip with his family and my family-- a total of 7 children and our wives traveled west (to Yellowstone National Park) for 2 weeks together!  

Olle and I, together with our spouses, just spent a week together!  Some of the highlights included New York City, Pittsburgh for the Eagles concert, blueberry picking at Wingard's in Shippenville. Moreover, we had a wonderful time with an Amish family for dinner in Knox.

My wife, Lydia, and I have hosted 5 wonderful Rotary exchange students (from Bolivia, Brazil, India, Venezuela, and Argentina) and enjoyed it tremendously.  Our oldest son and daughter were Rotary exchange students to Venezuela and Argentina, and that has profoundly changed their lives.

I joined Rotary after college in 1977 and have enjoyed the friendships and service to the community over the years.  I am so proud to have been a very small part in eradicating polio and bringing fresh water to so many in need.  Rotary is what you make it to be in your life.  For me --  it has been one of the greatest blessings!"

Jim Crooks
Clarion Rotary Club


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