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Thomson Rotary Club starts push to create community Interact Club

There's a new club for teens in town and it gets them involved in the community. The Thomson Rotary Club held an informational meeting last Thursday evening to establish the Rotary Interact Club. Interact is a service and social club for young people ages 14-18.

"It will give you the opportunity to do things you can't do at home playing Nintendo," Andy Knox, Jr., said to those in attendance. Mr. Knox introduced himself to the group as "the youngest Rotarian in Thomson."

Approximately 50 young people and their parents attended the meeting, which was held at the Depot. Several Rotarians were there to give presentations and answer questions. Interact Coordinator Alan Shapiro shared his passion for the new club.

"One thing I want you to understand is the amount of adults you see here now will not be here during the Interact meetings. It is a youth-run club," Mr. Shapiro said. "In Rotary, we like to go on field trips to tour businesses - have food drives - and fundraisers. - But you guys will have to decide where do you want to put your energy."Mr. Shapiro said in a later interview that he was pleased with the turn-out at the meeting, but was even more surprised with the number who enrolled.

"We thought they'd go think about it and join later, but 34 of them joined right away, which we didn't expect," he said. "I guess we did a good job presenting it to them."

This Interact Club will be different from those in Thomson in the past, as well as from those all over the United States, in that it will be a community-based club rather than school-based.

"There's just a handful of community oriented clubs in the United States," said Rotarian Kelly Evans. "It's a very European concept."

Mr. Shapiro said he wanted to establish a community-based club that would include teens no matter where they attend school - Thomson High, Briarwood or home schooled. Mr. Shapiro said he plans to discourage cliques and encourage interaction.

"It's not about who you are, what you wear or who your parents are," Mrs. Evans said. "It's about what you can do to change the world. - No matter where you go to school, you can participate. It gets you out of your clique and involved with other people."

Interact will be sponsored by the Thomson Rotary Club. According to Rotary literature, Interact clubs are self-governing and self-supporting, offering many opportunities for members to develop leadership and teamwork skills through local service projects and fundraisers for a variety of causes.

"I'm so glad of this," said Melissa Chambers, a parent at the meeting. "My son has been active in Mission:McDuffie for the past two years and was always disappointed when it was over. As soon as the meeting was over tonight, he wanted to join right away."

And it is still not too late to join. Those who are interested may contact Karen Saltzman at Partners For Success, 706-595-3112. Partners For Success is not affiliated with the Interact Club, but Ms. Saltzman is helping facilitate the initial membership.

The Interact Club will meet two days each month at The Depot. The meetings will possibly be on Thursdays, but no exact rules or times have been established yet. The first meeting is planned for Sept. 6.

The annual membership fee is $12 and each meeting fee is $2. Ms. Saltzman said if someone is unable to afford the fee, she will help find someone to pay it in exchange for work.

For more information, call Ms. Saltzman at the above number, Mr. Shapiro at 706-465-3285 or Mrs. Evans at 706-595-2104.

"Nobody cares what you think, they care about what you've done," Ms. Evans told the teens. "And at 14-18 years of age, there's a lot you can do in McDuffie County- It's about taking the next generation of Thomson and lifting it up. That's what Interact is going to be- I see lots of potential in this room. I'm excited y'all are here."

Web posted on Thursday, August 30, 2007

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