Members of the Fergus-Elora Rotary Interact Club created 'thank you' notes designed for the hardworking COVID-19 team at Groves Hospital.Rotary Club of Fergus-Elora

A team of dedicated youth is learning to serve the community.

The Interact Club of the Fergus-Elora Rotary Club invites students in grades 9-12 to meet new people and help improve the lives of those around them.

Club youth director Barbara Lustgarten-Evoy believes the most defining trait of Interact is the Rotary concept of ‘kindness and service above self.'

“It’s important that the younger we introduce our youth to the world of giving and of caring for our neighbours, the more it becomes a part of who they are as adults,” Lustgarten-Evoy said.

“We want to raise stronger adults for tomorrow. Within the club, there’s camaraderie, friendship, and commitment to one another as well as to the community."

Members of the youth-led service group engage and learn about the needs of the community, where can also earn their volunteer community service hours along the way.

Lustgarten-Evoy, who has been running the program for over 10 years, said the club offers opportunities to make new friends, learn about travel, gain a stronger understanding of self and others, and can help with future employment opportunities.

“Currently there are seven participants. But we are always looking for more,” Lustgarten-Evoy said.


“We have members who have to leave us as they move on from Grade 12. This is when they really start becoming engaged and realize their place in the world. That's why we really want to encourage students, from grades 9 and up, to get involved, before then.”

Rotary’s vision is to build a strong and vibrant club, committed to serving local and global communities while ensuring equity, diversity and growth for all.

Lustgarten-Evoy said the club adheres to a 'four-way test' that includes truth, fairness, building good will and friendship, and being engaged in projects that are beneficial to others.

“We want youth to grow up with the Rotary’s four-way test. It is the foundation for these future adults and that’s what we try to include in all of our messaging, between myself, and all other Rotarians.”

Members of Interact choose between local and international initiatives such as human trafficking awareness, food safety and local hospital support.

"They pick different projects throughout the year. I am the Canadian coordinator for a group called Rotary Action Group Against Slavery, that fights against human trafficking. I share this with the youth as one of their causes is fighting human trafficking, learning about what it means, and how we can make a difference," Lustgarten-Evoy said.

"They are involved in activities throughout the year, including helping out on Canada Day, and during the holiday season this year, they will collect socks for a sock drive that is partnered with a food drive. It's a combined effort."

At the Coldest Night of the year event in February, Interact will raise funds for the fight against human trafficking.

"They do not raise money for themselves, only for certain causes around the community. They help out wherever and whenever they can," Lustgarten-Evoy said.

Interact promotes equity, diversity and inclusion, and welcomes everyone.

In the past, the club has made trips to New York for United Nations Day, to Port Elgin for a Halloween Haunt, trips to museums, hiking, bowling, dining out together, and various other team building activities.

"These kids really do bond together and become a team," Lustgarten-Evoy said.

"We are not raising children. We are raising adults. In order to help raise adults for tomorrow, who are committed to the wellbeing of our community, we have to start teaching them very young in terms of what it means to give of yourself in order to make a difference in someone else’s life."

Students are also able to work towards their community service hours. 

"This is not the big bonus, but a bonus. Kids should not give of themselves because its requirement. They should want to give of themselves because it’s the right thing to do," Lustgarten-Evoy said.

The big takeaway, Lustgarten-Evoy said, is learning to give and the friendships made.

"These students are seen by their community and business owners, and that helps them to create a profile of themselves as they walk out into the world," she said

"It's about making a difference in your community and feeling really good about being a positive change maker. That goes beyond anything else."