On January 6th, Past District 7120 Governor (PDG) Norma Reilly surprised our President-elect Sara Visingard with a Paul Harris Fellow (PHF) recognition for her work in leading a fundraiser that netted $10,000US for Typhoon Haiyan relief in the Philippines. Tacloban City, which is in Rotary District 3860, was in the news for being especially hard-hit by the typhoon last November.
This recognition was well-deserved.
Most of the time however, Paul Harris Fellow (PHF) recognitions can be baffling to new Rotarians. That the recognitions are often erroneously called Paul Harris Awards is only part of the confusion.
At our club meetings, a PHF recognition most-often involves a Rotary member being called to stand at the podium with the member’s sponsor while our president tells us of the member’s dedication for giving $1000 to The Rotary Foundation. The member receives a pin with a sapphire in it with room to add more sapphires or rubies depending on future donations, a medallion and a certificate signed by the Rotary International president. The recipient always beams. Fellow club members always cheer.
A new member might think the PHF recipient bought the award. They may wonder why anyone would happily publicly acknowledge it and why others cheer it. Isn’t it better when others notice how wonderful a person is and give recognition the way Norma did to Sara?
Except we’re talking apples and oranges here.
Paul Harris founded Rotary International (RI) in 1905, so it would seem fitting that an award with his name on it would be the highest recognition RI could give. But the Paul Harris Fellow is not an award, and it is not the highest recognition given by Rotary (Service Above Self is the highest). It is an acknowledgement that $1000 has been donated to The Rotary Foundation by a member or by a club in someone else’s name.
That $1000 supports Rotary International’s efforts such as ending polio worldwide, disaster recovery, health, hunger and humanity grants, ambassadorial scholarships, group study exchanges, and peace fellowships.
It’s the donation that matters, not where it came from. It takes dedication to scrape together $1000 or more and give it away.
Clubs set their own recognition criteria. Some clubs use dues to top-up a member’s donation and speed the recognition. Some of Fairport’s club dues fund PHF recognition to members of the community for outstanding community effort on behalf of Rotary. FHS educator Cate Carr, past Perinton Supervisor Jim Smith and Van Bortel Subaru founder Kitty Van Bortel are some of our community PHF recipients. PHF is a way we can acknowledge local efforts while simultaneously supporting RI.
In the case of President-elect Sara’s PHF for her disaster relief fundraising, PDG Norma and her husband Gary Reilly donated $1000 to The Rotary Foundation in Sara’s name.
Our members aren’t buying themselves awards. They are making a difference in the world.
A Paul Harris Fellow goes beyond the pin, the medallion and the signed certificate. A Paul Harris Fellow recognition is a gift that keeps giving.
It’s a gift that you can give. Join us today.