By Jeff Noble Staff Writer
It’s given Tri-Countians a taste of the world once a year, by serving up foods, festivities and fun from nations spanning the globe. In return it’s served up life-saving medicine given to children in less-developed nations.
And once again, Rotary Clubs in Corbin and London are teaming up to seat you at the table at their International Dinner this month.
It’s the fifth annual event for the two clubs, with last year’s event held at the Corbin Civic Center. This year’s Rotary International Dinner is Saturday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m., at the London Community Center downtown on Main Street.
The way one Rotarian put it, the dinner’s become appointment eating for February.
“We’re looking at about 15-20 countries that will be represented at the dinner. They include Brazil, Colombia, Italy, Japan, Greece, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and of course, the good ole USA. The food is outstanding, and there’s something for everybody’s taste buds. The band is called, ‘Swell,’ and they’re kind of a hybrid band with an international flavor. We’re expecting 350 people in attendance, and a great night out,” said Debbie Hardin, a Corbin Rotary Club member and the Corbin Chairperson for the dinner.
London Rotary Club member Jamie Harrison was there at its creation in 2009 and has worked on the dinner ever since. “It is a very world-cultured event, and no one in the area has anything to rival all the different types of food available to them one night a year. It’s not your typical catered event. It’s something to experience. It opens people’s eyes to what the world has to offer.”
“It’s just really a celebration of diversity in our community. We have the food, the festivities and the proceeds going to a good cause,” noted Kathryn Hardman, London Rotary Club member and Rotary District 6740 Governor, during a phone interview Friday.
Tickets for the International Dinner are $25 for adults and $12.50 for children 12 and under. You can also buy a reserved table for eight for $250, or a table for 10 for $300. Tickets are available at the door, and from any Corbin or London Rotary Club member. They’re also available in Corbin at Baptist Regional Medical Center, and in London at Minuteman Press.
In addition, vendor space is available for the event, for those wanting to serve food and have international-themed displays. You can contact Hardman at 878-9134 or Hardin at 523-8540 for more information.
The “good cause” is to put polio in its place. For good.
According to the Rotary International website, polio cases worldwide have rapidly declined since 1985. Back then, there were 71 polio-free countries, including the United States, compared to 125 polio-endemic countries.
Last year, 193 countries were polio-free, with only three polio-endemic countries.
Until the invention of the Salk vaccine in 1953, polio — a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease — was a major health problem in this nation. Rotarians say that if the fight isn’t finished now, more than 10 million children under the age of five in the world could be paralyzed by polio in the next 40 years.
“It’s important to define what the ‘Polio Plus’ project by Rotary International does. It’s the largest humanitarian project in the history of mankind. There’s been well over two billion inoculations of children across the world,” Corbin Rotary Club member Rev. John Burkhart said Thursday.
All proceeds from the International Dinner go to Rotary International to eradicate polio. Hardin said Thursday both clubs split the money raised in their names and send it to the parent organization. Together, they send an average of $7,000-$8,000 a year.
But Burkhart stated the humanitarian effort has seen its share of tragedies.
“The biggest adversary has been going into hostile territory around the world, due to wars, uprisings and conflicts. We’ve lost several hundred Rotarians and persons hired, who have died worldwide while trying to vaccinate children and eradicate polio. The task is so big, but it has to be done. We’ve got it down to three countries. When you take the number of deaths from polio down from 360,000 annually to less than 200 a year, it’s amazing. But polio has to be totally eradicated, because if it’s not, it spreads fast. We have to press on. Otherwise, our work to eradicate polio is in vain.”
Hardman pointed out that to understand the sense of urgency Rotarians have for the task, one must remember a time when polio was dangerous in America over 50 years ago.
“While the disease is no longer a problem in our country, there are some in our community who had polio, had family members or knew someone who was afflicted with the disease. They remember not going swimming in the 50’s when polio was a problem, and they remember when they got their polio shots. Those fears are no longer prevalent in the community, but they are in other parts of the world, and the disease could spread again. It’s only one flight away.”
Ending that threat of polio is what got the event started here locally. Harrison said he remembers it all.
“The Somerset club has a very successful International Dinner and ours was modeled after theirs. Our first one was in 2009, the year after I was President of the London Rotary Club. It was a really interesting idea, because this area never had a dinner of this type ever. We tried the dinner that first year, and it was quite successful. I think we did $6,000-$7,000 the first year.”
Many Corbin and London Rotarians will be there to help, serve and share the evening less than two weeks away. But in their hearts, they’ll be remembering one of their own. Lori Acton, District Director of the Laurel County Public Library and a London Rotary Club member, died last Monday, and was buried Saturday.
“As Rotary members, we were devastated by her loss. She was an outstanding Rotarian, was instrumental in the International Dinner for five years, and was the London Chairperson for the dinner. We’ll be having a meeting Monday to finalize the dinner plans. I’m sure we will something to honor her memory at the dinner,” Hardin said.
Both clubs rotate each year to host the dinner. There’s music, dancing and other entertainment that compliments the whole evening. And, as Harrison said, there’s the food, which makes for quite a worldly experience.
“You mill around the room and follow the line of people to the tables where the food vendors are. You meet people, you have interesting conversations with some you don’t know, and everyone talks about the food they’re eating, the variety of food you have, the different dishes from the many nations, and best of all, you watch their reactions when they taste the food. Couple that with the music and entertainment with a global theme, and it makes for a great night out.”
Hardin added, “We have wonderful food. And we have so many repeat customers each year. They call us and ask when the next dinner will be.”