Petersburg Rotarian, Dave Berg stands between Rotary District Governor, Harry Kieling, and Assistant District Governor, Rosie Powell during a visit to town last week. (Photo by Angela Denning, KFSK)

Petersburg’s Rotary club last week hosted the organization’s District Governor and Assistant Governor to Alaska. Rotary is the largest service organization in the world with well over a million members. KFSK’s Angela Denning has more:

District Governor, Harry Kieling, oversees Rotary clubs all over Alaska and the Yukon territory of Canada. He says he sees his job as kind of a liaison.

“I look at that as a bridge between the local club where all the action is and all the work is done to the national and international organization,” Kieling said.

Kieling was in Petersburg as part of a state wide tour along with Assistant Governor, Rosie Rowpell. Both Kieling and Rowpell have year-long, voluntary positions. As Governor, one of Kieling’s duties is to visit all 40 clubs in his district within the year.

“Since the first of July, I’ve visited, this is my 14th club,” Kieling said. “I’ve been to Nome, to Barrow, to Kenai, to Ketchikan, here, and then later in the week we’re going to Sitka. It’s a lot of fun. It’s so empowering to go out to these clubs and to see the Rotarians who ware so dedicated. And the impact they have on the community and the impact they have by being Rotarians.”

Kieling is a pilot and has traveled around the state for decades. He says Alaska’s remote nature makes this Rotary district unique compared to others that have all of their clubs in the same town.

Although Rotary is widely known in the United States for its youth exchange program, internationally, the organization is also well known for eradicating the polio disease. The group has worked with different countries, boosting immunization efforts. Kieling says 30 years ago there were 1,000 new cases of polio a day.

“This year, because of the efforts of Rotary, there’s nine cases worldwide,” Kieling said. “And the hope is it’s only in three countries, Aghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. And the hope is once and for all we’re going to rid the world of polio. And Rotary can take a lot of the credit for that.”

He says India has been polio free for two years.

A constant figure in Petersburg’s Rotary Club is Dave Berg. He’s has been part of the local club for about 35 years.

“I find the programs and the friendships that we’re involved in is very rewarding,” Berg said.

Petersburg’s club has been a long-time supporter of Rotary’s youth exchange program. Berg says there have been inbound and outbound students for over 20 years.

“We’ve had kids go out from Petersburg to all kinds of different foreign countries and we’ve hosted kids into Petersburg on a yearly basis,” Berg said.

Next up for the Petersburg youth exchange is a student from South Africa coming here for a year starting in January. This fall Rotary will be looking for another outbound student to travel somewhere for a year starting next August. There is also a short term summer program for students to travel to different countries to learn about their cultures. Rotary is looking for more local students to participate in that next summer as well.

“The impact that the Petersburg Rotary Club has on this community is immense,” Kieling said. “They really make our community and our world better and this is a very strong club here with some really motivated and dedicated members.”

Berg says everyone is invited to join the club, men and women. No invitation is needed.

Petersburg’s Rotary Club meets Wednesdays at noon at the Salvation Army Hall.