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Rotarians adapt, continue to serve community during pandemic

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Growing up in Denver, Willis Scharmer received his advanced education from the University of Colorado at Boulder. It was thanks to his older brother, who moved to Roswell, that Scharmer first got a glance at what would become his future home.

Roswell Rotary Club president Willis Scharmer (Submitted Photo)

“When I came down to visit, I liked Roswell so much that I worked to get summer co-op jobs here,” Scharmer said. “I worked for Wagener Engineering and TMC before graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, followed up by a master’s in engineering and management. I like to say that I was born in Colorado, but I got to Roswell as fast as I could.

“I was really pulled to Roswell by the cultural and scenic diversity of New Mexico,” he said.

He worked for TMC and its iterations for many years, then in the oil and gas industry before settling into his current career as chief operating officer at Rio Pecos Medical Associates, LTD.

Seeing that Scharmer traveled for most of his career, nationally and internationally, it was nice for him to finally be settled in Roswell full-time.

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Scharmer, who’s the current president of the Roswell Rotary Club, added, “I’m also fortunate enough to have found and married my soulmate of a few decades now, Judy, who’s a successful Rotarian in the city’s other Rotary club (the Pecos Valley Rotary Club).”

Travel is actually what spurred Scharmer’s own involvement in Rotary.

“I was invited to join Roswell Rotary Club 27 years or so ago, after I participated in Rotary International’s Graduate Student Exchange program to southern France,” Scharmer said. “It was a program for young professionals to experience other cultures and business realms in the hopes of bringing the world closer together. It was a true game-changer for me, being that it opened my eyes to how all people are basically the same. We crave family, friends, shelter, food and a chance to be part of the greater good.”

However, in this time of the pandemic, even more “game-changers” have come along, causing everything from small businesses to organizations to alter their ways in order to keep running. Scharmer understands the difficulties in that, and the effects it’s had on the Roswell Rotary Club.

“During this pandemic, we’ve adapted by meeting weekly via Zoom,” he said. “We try to make these the same as our in-person meetings, and utilizing the platform does allow for a more spontaneous audience and very interesting speakers to attend who normally wouldn’t be able to do so due to travel and schedules.

“Our weekly speakers program has recently hosted three New Mexico cabinet secretaries, numerous Roswell civic leaders, and others who discuss topics like health care and education that have been keeping us abreast of what’s happening locally and statewide,” Scharmer said.

With just over 80 members at this time, Scharmer said that all are working together to achieve the same goals as always.

“Roswell Rotary began just after the last century’s pandemic, in May of 1920. We had to postpone our 100th-anniversary celebration this year, but we’re hoping to have it in due time,” he said.

Continually monitoring announcements on when in-person meetings can once again commence, Scharmer talks about how the Rotary has tried to keep an active calendar within the confines of the current restrictions and Rotary International’s main moral compass.

“This is referred to as the Four Way Test and it requires us to ask questions,” Scharmer explains. “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? And, will it be beneficial to all concerned?

“All Rotarians take the Four Way Test seriously but our club also likes to add: Will it be fun?” he added.

Scharmer also spoke about some of the club’s current and ongoing projects.

“Our projects are now in the spirit of the period and we practice social distancing responsibly,” he said. “We have put up Rotary highway signs with our fellow Pecos Valley Rotary Club, and we have two grant projects progressing — one at the Roswell Zoo, where we donated money for trees and fencing, and another out at Rotary Playground on West Mescalero, where a sidewalk, benches and trees will be installed to make it more accessible and relaxing.”

But the Rotary Club’s work doesn’t stop there.

“We also help out Habitat for Humanity on Saturday mornings,” Scharmer continued, “and participate in the biannual highway trash pickup days, as well as other local projects.”

Although a few of the projects are on hold, or waiting for the right time of year to begin — the backpack program that lets school children at various elementary schools take food home each weekend; the Fun Shoot fundraiser; and, the international student exchange program that enables high schoolers to see another country and learn about another culture for the better part of a year — they have certainly not been forgotten.

“We look forward to the return of all programs, but really enjoy the interaction the club gets each week from the perspective of a young person from the other side of the world,” Scharmer said. “We also feel the joy of sending a young Roswellite to see the world.

“Last, but not least, we provide a scholarship program that helps approximately 20 new and returning college/trade students each year through the generosity of past and present Roswell Rotarians. We have a foundation with its own leadership that helps out the community with donations to civic groups and individuals, which is also still ongoing,” he said.

Roswell Rotary is an integral aspect of a district of clubs here and in West Texas, and part of Rotary International’s million-plus members worldwide. When asked what he would like the community to know, Scharmer said: “We have put our resources together and been instrumental in the radical reduction in polio cases throughout the world; we are almost there.

“Rotary International, at its core, is committed to creating international understanding of the human condition, to provide safe drinking water, and to perform projects that strengthen and build the areas in which we live. Roswell Rotary members are as varied as the careers they chose. Leaders from all walks of life, we want to make a positive difference every day.

“If you’re interested in learning more or becoming a member, please call us at 575-622-1096,” Scharmer said.