By Collin Brooks
Newly appointed Rotary Club District Governor Dick Ray compared the journey to his new seat as a rollercoaster and it’s a ride that he has been enjoying.
Ray officially assumed the title on July 1, after serving a year as District Governor Elect.
“The hard work is in the year before,” said Ray, who just finished up a full year with District Governor Elect responsibilities including attending conferences and other tasks. “It’s in identifying the programs and organizing all of the folks that help.
“…I’ll tell you what it’s a lot like. I compare it to one of the old-time rollercoasters. The year before, as District Governor Elect, is going up that first big hill, that first big lift. And on July 1, I am looking at the top of that hill and it’s a great view…So it’s time to let go, and enjoy the ride.”
Even though he may have an important title, he said that nothing he does would be possible without his local Johnson City Rotary Club Chapter, which accounts for just one of the 82 clubs in the dirtrict from Greeneville to Winchester, Virginia.
Ray’s responsibilities will be to encourage clubs in the district and their leaders, which means he will visit the 82 clubs with close to 3,400 Rotarians. He will also help to be a liaison between clubs to broker larger projects with multiple groups. One of his main duties is to encourage humanitarian service throughout the world. The Rotary Club website describes the position as “a very experienced Rotarian who generously devotes a year to the volunteer task of leadership.”
He is the fifth district governors from the Johnson City Rotary Club since their inception 100 years ago. The last was Caroll Richardson, who served in 1994. Before that, Dr. Bill Noland served as District Governor in the 1960s.
During his one year term as District Governor Elect, Ray spent a lot of time learning about his new duties and responsibilities, which also included spending a week in San Diego with the other 529 District Governors-Elect for the Rotary Club to get an understanding of the needs in their part of the world.
Ray’s day job is as a certified public accountant whose work specializes in forensic accounting and he joined the club 26 years ago after a friend invited him.
“I joined Rotary because a friend asked,” Ray said. “It’s that simple, I was asked. Once I attended a club meeting, I looked around and said, ‘The community leaders are in this room.’ I was really impressed with that.”
After joining, he went on to look at some of his fellow members as mentors and aspired to have their type of influence and positive impact on the community.
“Once you get engaged in an organization, then it’s all in,” Ray said. “And then it progressed that 26 years later I am now the District Governor.”
He will help lead multiple initiatives over his district during his one year term,
“What we really want to do in the community is work with other community leaders and businesses and government and work on the big issues in this community. And then we work together and engage other people, to solve those problems.”
Ray said that he will help to oversee a district project that hopes to infuse Southwest Virginia with a literacy initiative that will follow a blueprint like the Dolly Parton Imagination Library implemented across Tennessee. The goal will be to put a book in the hands of all preschool age kids and give adults an opportunity to improve their literacy.
The club has identified 10,000 kids in Southwest Virginia that would benefit from the Imagination Library Program. They have also identified a substantial number of those children’s parents who could benefit from adult literacy program.
So they will try to attract a partner to help with the program and engage clubs in Southwest Virginia to rollout the program. Then they plan on helping to sign up kids for the program and assist any adults who may have literacy needs.
“Our children and grandchildren in Tennessee have the benefit of a book-a-month, if they sign up,” Ray said. “Kids in Southwest Virginia don’t have that benefit.”
Also this year, the Johnson City group will trade a group of young professionals with a club in Gujarat, India. They will also be doing similar adventures in Suriname and Guyana, countries in South America
“Those exchanges are great for even more relationship building, but then they also evolve into projects to assist needs in those parts of the world,” Ray said.
Ray said that he wanted to get to the highest perch in his Rotary district because he wanted to serve people the best that he could.
“I want to help people,” Ray said. “So at what level can you help the most? So how can you leverage others through leadership to help more across the world and in your community?
“I’ve seen how Rotarians can work together and have a larger impact.”