Greater Mankato Rotary

(This revised version corrects the number of clubs throughout the world).

MANKATO — Throughout the Mankato-North Mankato chapter’s 85-year history, Rotarians steadily worked on projects that improve the lives of their neighbors. Now the local branch of the service organization is developing a new program for youthful business and professionals willing to work together to help save the Earth.

“There are lots of young professionals out there who want to make a difference,” said Mandy Gault, the chapter member who is heading up the creation of a new satellite club focusing on environmental sustainability.

“We want them to know Rotary is a fabulous organization for those who want to get involved in service work.”

The Ecology Club will kick off 5 p.m. Monday with a virtual informational meeting about Greater Mankato Rotary and its new satellite group. Keynote speaker Rob Davis, director of the Center for Pollinators in Energy, will discuss solar power options that are not harmful to bees and birds.

“We’ve had an overwhelming response so far,” Gault said, describing the number of social media posts from people planning to attend.

Registration is required to attend the Ecology Club kickoff meeting:

Volunteers dedicated to big service projects have long been drawn to the Rotary. Now’s a good time for the organization to reach out in new directions, Gault said.

Since 1988, the Rotary’s 3,500-plus groups in 200 countries have been part of a successful campaign to eradicate polio.

“Africa has been polio-free for about three years. Now, there are only two countries where cases are still reported,” Gault said.

Rotarians are ready to take on new challenges, she said.

Mankato member Kenny Klooster said the upcoming Ecology Club program will be his group’s first attempt at a Monday evening meeting.

“For the longest time we’ve at noon on Wednesdays at the same location,” he said.

In past years, showing up consistently has been a top priority for Rotary members.

“Some local members haven’t missed a meeting in 20 years,” he said.

Due to health concerns regarding the coronavirus, Klooster and other longtime members were not able to meet face to face until earlier this week, when they got together at Happy Chef.

In the past three months, however, they’ve familiarized themselves with virtual meetings to discuss projects such as volunteering for the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota and funding scholarships for speech and debate students in Mankato schools.

“We now realize it’s been increasingly difficult for young professionals — with the pandemic, their work schedules and commitments to their families — to attend noon meetings.

“It’s no longer so much about perfect attendance as it is about the importance of engagement,” Klooster said.