Tory Paxson and her family

By Tory Paxson, vice president, Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club, District 7780, Maine, USA

What’s life like for people between the ages of 18 and 35 in the Boothbay Region of Maine? Through Rotary, young people take on leadership positions that expand their skills while they serve. Rotary does more than help during a crisis like COVID-19; it provides experiences that translate into a better future in any career.

The Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor created a new membership level to make joining more accessible for those under the age of 35. In addition, generous club members have chosen to pay the first year membership costs for the first five new members in this category.
We call it the Rule of 35 and it reduces dues by more than 50% for those under the age of 35. It’s a commitment by our club to keep growing and learning, and to keep inviting young people to see what skills they can develop and add to their own resumes. It’s an invitation to make a difference.

Through Rotary, I have discovered what is possible when a group of like-minded individuals get together to make a difference. It matters not at all that we come in many shapes and sizes, backgrounds, or age-ranges. After a short few years, it’s apparent to me that what we have in common is more important than our differences. We believe in Service Above Self.

It’s more than a motto, it is what compels our club. While we’re known for our annual benefit auction (on hiatus, due to the pandemic), our club works year-round to help our local community and communities around the world. We have given out bikes to seasonal and international workers, organized the Soup Bowl Supper and Derby Party fundraisers, run mock job interviews for high school seniors to practice for future careers, and created care packages for veterans, among many other things.

Rotary has also enabled me to become capable, confident and powerful as I worked alongside change-makers. I have gained project management skills that you can only get through organizing and managing a 200 plus person event with three different organizational crews and over 40 donors and vendors. I’ve became a better, more confident public speaker and learned to use my voice to create change both in Rotary and in my career. I used that voice to convince my fellow members to support our new club membership level for other young professionals like me, the first of its kind in our Rotary district.

At age 25, joining Rotary changed the trajectory of my life. Now 30, I am vice president of our club and have discovered the many ways that I can make a difference.

More than that, I joined a family of people who have rich histories, have a lot of love to give, and are committed to their community. Many of them are business leaders with fascinating careers. I learn and laugh with them at our meetings, taking a break from my busy life to connect with people that I would have never had the chance to get to know otherwise. It’s the reset button I need after a challenging day. Some of my best friends are twice my age, and my life is twice as rich for having them in it.