Communication Builds Our Community

3 Generations Serve Community through Rotary on the Ridge

Nature or nurture? It's probably both when you look at three generations of women sharing a heart for serving the community.

When she turned 18 in July, Jillian Gillis became Rotary on the Ridge's youngest member, joining her parents and grandparents as full members of the service club.

Jillian's mom, Megan Gillis, is the 2021-22 club president and grandparents Sheri and Marshall Hartley joined when Megan served her first term as president in 2018-2019.

Rotary is indeed a family affair as dad Herb Gillis was club president in 2019-2020, and Jillian's sisters Madison and Haiden Gillis also have attended weekly meetings as "Rota-Kids" since the club was formed in December 2016.

"In order for me to commit to a service club it had to be family-oriented. Rotary on the Ridge is very unique and makes that happen so working moms and dads can show their children what it's like to serve our community," Megan said. "Once I was here I realized all the good Rotary does not only in our community but in the entire world. And that's why I'm still here."

Sheri joined to support her daughter, Megan: "I am so proud to be her Mom. She is an amazing woman. She runs her own business. She married a great guy. I couldn't ask for anyone better. She has raised three wonderful girls. They all care about serving their community."

While Jillian stood with eight other new members installed during the club's annual celebration in June she couldn't officially become a Rotarian until her 18th birthday in July.

"I joined because my parents have always been a part of it, and I just love to keep it going in the family," said Jillian, who is helping promote the club this year as public image chair. "I've always been serving since I was young, even as a baby always with my parents. I absolutely love doing it. It's something I've always enjoyed doing and I just love being able to be in the community and helping."

Rotary on the Ridge is a regional, after-hours service club chartered by Rotary International. Drawing members from throughout East Polk County, the club meets every Monday from 5-6 p.m. at the Ouellette Law Firm community room at 151 E. Central Ave. in downtown Lake Wales. Prospective members are welcome any Monday to visit the club, which is dedicated to fellowship, business networking and community service.

Grandmother Sheri is proud that Jillian decided to join the club: "Jillian is a sweet, thoughtful young woman. She makes me so proud. I love seeing her blossom into the sweet young woman she is."

What does Jillian like best about the club? "The fun people. I love the smiling faces on everybody and I love seeing them every Monday."

Rotary on the Ridge offers a variety of volunteer opportunities, including providing hospitality at community events, serving breakfast to artists at the annual Lake Wales Arts Festival, picking up trash, and providing water safety presentations to area preschool and kindergarten children. Rotary on the Ridge was named Club of the Year in 2020 by District 6890, chosen from among 37 clubs in four Central Florida counties.

In partnership with Heart 4 Winter Haven and other Rotary Clubs, Herb Gillis and others from Rotary on the Ridge were actively involved in renovating and furnishing a scholarship house for homeless Polk State College students. It opened in 2020.

Club members will staff the wine and beer garden at the 2021 Pioneer Days Festival, and the club just became a presenting sponsor of the 2022 Lake Wales Mardi Gras Festival and Parade. Club members also are working to offer an empowerment weekend camp experience for middle school girls in March 2022.

It promises to be an active year for President Megan, who hopes to grow the membership so more people with servant hearts can become involved: "I love the fellowship, the community involvement, the friendships, the fun, the laughter, all aspects of it. It's just a unique club and lots of fun."

Sheri echoes that sentiment: "I like everything about it. I like all the people. I like all the things that everybody does for the community."


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