Rotary Club of Willowbrook marks 36 years of giving back despite dwindling membership

Rotary Club of Willowbrook was founded in 1984. (Courtesy Rotary Club of Willowbrook)
Rotary Club of Willowbrook was founded in 1984. (Courtesy Rotary Club of Willowbrook)

Rotary Club of Willowbrook was founded in 1984. (Courtesy Rotary Club of Willowbrook)

For nearly four decades, the Rotary Club of Willowbrook has epitomized its motto “Service Above Self” despite its dwindling membership.

As one of 35,000 rotary clubs across 200 countries, Rotary Club of Willowbrook was founded by current co-President Tom Jackson in 1984. Made up mostly of local small-business owners, the club focuses on promoting peace; fighting disease; saving mothers and children; supporting education; growing local economies; and providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

“We have members from all walks of life that feel a call to serve their community and give back to their community,” Jackson said. “People that have a public servant mentality—those are the people that we encourage to join the Rotary Club.”

Since its inception 36 years ago, Jackson said Rotary Club of Willowbrook has sponsored and hosted international exchange students, awarded scholarships to Klein ISD students, provided meals for Habitat for Humanity volunteers and supported other local nonprofit organizations. The nonprofit also supports an Interact Club—the high school level of a rotary club—at KISD and has funded grants to build water wells in foreign countries.

However, Jackson said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has limited the club’s ability to operate normally. The club’s international exchange student program is paused due to COVID-19, and all meetings are now taking place virtually. Additionally, Jackson said the pandemic is further hindering the club’s ability to attract new members.


While Rotary Club of Willowbrook had as many as 60 members at one point, Jackson said membership is now at 20—a trend he said is becoming common among most membership-based organizations.

“As a society, we just don’t join things anymore,” he said. “As long as we have a Twitter or Facebook account, that’s all we need. So I don’t know where that’s going to leave us in the future.”

In hopes of becoming more attractive to prospective members, Jackson said the club has let go of strict attendance rules and simplified the invitation-only application process.

“I have friends that I’ve had for 30-40 years that I met through rotary that I still associate with,” he said. “You build up a lot of camaraderie because you see these people once a week for years and you do service projects with them. So you develop a relationship that transcends rotary.”

Rotary Club of Willowbrook

www.willowbrookrotary.org
By Hannah Zedaker
Born and raised in Cypress, Texas, Hannah Zedaker graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and a minor in political science. She began as an intern with Community Impact Newspaper in 2015 and was hired upon graduation as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in May 2016. In January 2019, she was promoted to serve as the editor of the Spring/Klein edition where she covers Spring ISD and Harris County Commissioners Court, in addition to business, development and transportation news.


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