Ron Aitken:
I was aware of the Rotary Club of St. Marys for several years before I became a member. Rotarian Grant Barton invited me to a couple of meetings and also allowed me to act as a Friend of Rotary for the Dragon Boat races held on the Thames River. At that time I felt as if I was too busy with work and family. (I also didn’t really feel as if I fit the social strata that I imagined Rotary members to be. This turned out to be a totally erroneous assumption)
 When I retired in June 2010, I knew that I needed a social component to my life as outside of work I had always gravitated towards solitude. Adrian Elderhorst who was my neighbour began inviting me to meetings. After attending a couple of meetings, I decided to join the Club to give me the social exposure that I sought. During these “trial” visits, I also discovered that I quite liked the Club members and had common interests with many of them.
After joining, I discovered that the Club was involved in local community and international involvement to a greater extent than I had imagined. There was also a very explicit expectation that membership carried an obligation to participate in these activities. This was perfect for me because I always felt that if I was going to be a part of something, I was going to engage fully.
I am particularly enthused by our Youth Exchange Program and the many ways we support our local youth whether it is sponsoring youth sports clubs, providing leadership training or supporting educational programs in schools. We also have a working relationship with the Upper Thames Conservation Authority and this allows us to put some focus on the environment and the natural habitat in
St. Marys.
There have been a number of “ah ha” moments: the completion of our Rotary Trout Creek Park, a beautiful addition to our community, contributing money to third world countries, notably Haiti, through another local group. But the brightest spark came during my second year when I was invited to interview regional students who had applied for our exchange program. It was a revelation how bright, articulate and involved in their communities these students were. I continue to be amazed with the talents and abilities our local outgoing students, and incoming students exhibit.
Ron Aitken