ne of the biggest-ever projects initiated by the 98-year-old Calexico Rotary Club was the establishment of an $80,000 medical mobile unit to serve people in Mexicali. Members of the Calexico Rotary Club and others involved in working to make the unit happen pose in front of the vehicle. The club bought a bus, remodeled it with two medical examination rooms, and completely outfitted it to be a rolling clinic. | COURTESY PHOTO
CALEXICO — Calexico Rotary Club recently received a grant that allowed it to donate COVID-related supplies to first responders, one of the many new ways the club intends to re-work and make itself more known to the community.
“There are many needs in Calexico and I hope that the Calexico Rotary Club and its members become role models to the community, that when there is a need our community will work together to solve it and not have to wait for someone to resolve it for us,” Hortencia Armendariz, Calexico Rotary Club president, said of the club’s purpose.
“We need to instill that Calexico belongs to all of us and that each of us need to take ownership and responsibility to make our community a better place for all,” she said.
Armendariz said that recently the club received a $250 grant from a San Diego-area District Rotary club, matched it with another $250 and used the money to provide disinfecting supplies like hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and spray bottles with disinfectant solution to the Calexico Police Department and Fire Department.
This grant is one way Calexico Rotary has found it can help the community now that it is no longer able to host community events or fundraiser, and there are still upcoming projects that the club is working on during the pandemic.
“In addition to the grant that we received we saw the need in our community and our club decided to also provide our senior citizens with hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes. We currently submitted an additional grant to help remove barriers for medical treatment,” Armendariz said. “Our goal is to be able to provide our community members with transportation, meal and lodging vouchers for individuals needing medical treatments outside of Imperial County.”
Calexico Rotary has a long history of serving the Imperial Valley and has been doing so since 1922.
Eric Rice, the Rotary “Superhero Award” recipient for all of his contributions to the club since 1980, spoke on what the club has been involved in the past decades.
“Calexico Rotary cooperated with Mexicali Rotary clubs to air-condition a senior citizens’ home in Baja California, and we financed the building of restrooms for a small rural Mexican school that didn’t have any. … Young girls were dropping out of school because there were no restrooms to take care of their personal needs,” Rice said.
“We also provided filled backpacks for a Mexicali school, purchased trees and planted them for the Neighborhood House, supported a Little League baseball team, and provided scholarships,” Rice said.
He also spoke on one of the most important projects the Calexico Rotary Club initiated — a medical mobile unit.
“Calexico Rotary took the lead and bought a bus, remodeled it with two medical examination rooms, and completely outfitted it to be a rolling clinic to be used to provide services to areas around Mexicali. When the Easter earthquake hit, it was the only place to treat patients since all Mexicali hospitals were without power,” Rice said.
“This was a several-year project costing approximately $80,000. It was in cooperation with three other Imperial Valley Rotary clubs, Imperial, Brawley, and El Centro. We also had three Mexicali Rotary clubs’ financial and logistic support, and support at the district level in Baja and San Diego. We also received a matching grant from Rotary International,” he added.
The importance of this project is that it was their “centennial project,” spearheaded by the Rotary president at the time, the late Gil Perez, whose whole family believes in the club’s mission.
Perez’s daughter, Claire Perez-Machado, a legacy Rotarian along with the rest of her family, spoke on the importance of the club.
“It is a distinct honor to carry on our father’s legacy as he’s been a member of Calexico Rotary since 1975. Our dad instilled in us the Rotarian way of life; it is deeply rooted. What Rotary means to us is ‘service above self,’ working for the greater good, and providing humanitarian service, which is what our dad dedicated his life to,” Perez-Machado said.
Perez-Machado explained how one of her father’s legacies was his work to establish the “Crab Crack,” a club event and fundraiser that supports its projects.
“The one project that was near and dear to Gil’s heart in which he was the driving force would be the annual Calexico Rotary Crab Crack, the club’s signature event,” Perez-Machado said. “The purpose of this event would focus on generating funds to award scholarships to students pursuing a higher education post-high school graduation.”
Though the annual Crab Crack had to be cancelled due to COVID-19, the club was still able to grant four $500 scholarships and award the Gil A. Perez Rotarian Memorial Scholarship for $1,000.
During the 98-year history of Calexico Rotary Club, it has found ways to continue to grow and evolve. In the near future, there are plans to charter the Calexico Rotaract Club. Through Rotaract clubs, young people ages 18 to 30 develop leadership and professional skills, exchange ideas with community leaders, and have fun through service.
Another recently initiated project involves Calexico Rotary Club purchasing boxes of food from the Imperial Valley Food Bank every month to provide nourishment to senior citizens who have fallen ill to coronavirus. Perez-Machado noted something her father said when he received a Rotary-related award from the county Board of Supervisors. Perez said of Calexico Rotary, although “it is a small club, we do a lot of things, and we do them big.”