The Rotary Recreational Vehicle Fellowship
The Rotarian magazine has featured some fellowships but the following are excerpts from a story written by the Past President of the Rotary RV Fellowship (RVF), Jim Smith, who has written under the name of J. Oliver, for Family Motor Coach Magazine (FMCA).
Wherever the caravaner or recreational vehicle driver is, there is always some similarity present in RVers. This similarity is the demographics, or the psychographics, of the RV families. The RV participants are gregarious, honest, accommodating, adventurous people. With this description it’s not difficult to liken these homogeneous travelers in movable homes as having many attributes of Rotarians.
Since 1905, when Paul Harris, one of the Chicago's businessmen, initiated the first Rotary luncheon the members have reflected these same characteristics. And, Rotarians like the members of the FMCA enjoy being together. These elements of like personalities and the same mode of travel reflect the founding elements for the Rotary Recreational Vehicle Fellowship (RVF) in North American and the International Caravanning Fellowship of Rotarians (ICFR) in Europe.
This North American group’s communication vehicle mentioned above is the “Caravanner”.
The North American RVF was an idea by some Rotarians in Islamorada, Florida in 1971. Rotary International recognized them as a chartered fellowship in 1972. Today there are about 500 members (as in FMCA this usually represents families) organized into 4 zones, Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern. The group holds their National Conventions in conjunction with Rotary International Conventions when they are held in North America. The next scheduled International North American Convention will be in 2017 in Atlanta, GA. The RVF will also hold their annual National Rally in Atlanta that year.
The RVing Rotarians hold rallies where they socialize at dinners, breakfast and social hours. As good Rotarians they have not allowed the strictly social aspects of the fellowship to detract for their belief of “service above self”. If there are any excess funds garnered from the registration at rallies they are contributed to local highway safety programs. These range from Emergency Medical Technicians, Hospital Emergency Wards to local Fire Departments. In a conscious effort to augment these funds, the Eastern zone added a raffle. The raffles are for items contributed by fellowship members. The items are many times of questionable value and the winning items may well be up for the raffle at the next rally but the money raised is not. The annual contribution for highway safety has risen from several hundred dollars to several thousand. And the raffle has become an additional fun event and has extended to other zones.
The catalyst for the rallies in Rotary is the “Wagon Master”. The Wagon master has specific functions and responsibilities. With 30 to 40 recreational vehicles possible at the rallies these defined duties, which include pricing the stay at an RV Resort, meals, tours, recreation, social times and schedule a visit to a local Rotary Club can provide a challenge.
The North American RV Fellowship has many regional rallies scheduled in each of their four designated areas each year. At these events the rallying Rotarians collect around a campfire to exchange tales. And they also gather for an attitude adjustment early evening social hour to discuss the past days events and hear from the Wagon Master about the next days schedule or where the next rally will be held.
A bit of international RV nomenclature where this Rotary Fellowship is active may be in order. In Europe if you travel in a motorized home or trail a livable trailer you are a caravaner and the trailer is a caravan. The place you stop for the evening, days or week is referred to as a caravan or camping park. In Australia and New Zeeland the caravaner designation is also the term used for motor home and trailer travelers. The Rotary RV Fellowship in Europe refers to their group as the International Caravanning Fellowship of Rotarians (ICFR).
The same activity on the North American continent we know makes you an RVer (meaning a driver of a recreational vehicle). The place you stop is referred to as a RV Campground. The Rotary Fellowship in North America is named the Rotary RV Fellowship and interestingly, because of the European influence, the quarterly publication of the North American RV Fellowship (RVF) is the Caravanner.