The motto for the La Mesa Sunrise Rotary Club seems to be, “How can we help?” There are actually two La Mesa Rotary Clubs, but the Sunrise one is for the early birds as they hold their meetings once a week at 7:30 AM.

This service organization, which was started 27 years ago, does a variety of charitable projects, both locally and internationally. The 42 member club is diverse with different ethnicities and ages.

When asked why they joined, President, Manuela Murillo, Director of Youth Activities, Janet Castanos, Event Coordinator, Edda Temoche-Weldele, and Manuela’s husband, Assistant Governor, Hugo Murillo, all gave the same answer. They wanted to give back to the community. To this end, this high energy group organizes or participates in monthly events each year.

A notable project is Fern’s Bags, started by active member, Fern Platt-Hall. These are care bags for homeless people and contain protein bars, water, toiletries, and literature providing information as to where they can get help. The idea came about from her son’s Bar Mitzvah as he had to do some mitzvahs. For years, they had saved leftovers from restaurants for homeless people, and decided to take it one step further by making up bags. Most of the club members now keep them in their cars to hand out.

Fern and her husband, co-founder of the club and optometrist, Dr. Jeffery Hall, also began the Vision Project. They provide glasses to poor people internationally. In addition, they work with students from Diego Hills who cannot afford glasses. The club pays for the lenses and Dr. Hall’s office provides free eye exams. The frames are donated. This spring they will be taking glasses to the Rancho Santa Maria Orphanage in Baja California.

The club does ongoing work with students at Diego Hills Charter High School and Helix Charter High School. At Diego Hills, they consult the counselors and provide food gift cards or diapers for the teen mothers. At Helix Charter High School, they are going to participate in an upcoming project which consists of a school garden for their culinary and nutrition courses by providing seeds and soil, so the teens can learn about healthy eating, growing vegetables, and where food comes from.

They also work with Noah’s Home in Spring Valley and support other community projects, such as the Flag Day Parade in La Mesa.

Another international project of note is the Backpack Project in February. The club will provide 73 backpacks full of school supplies to HIV positive children in Nicaragua.

Other upcoming events include The Stone Soup Chili Night with the Urban Street Angels in January where they will cook chili and feed homeless youth, and in February, they will serve food at St Vincent de Paul. They also collect food and warm clothing for the homeless and their pets on a regular basis. There will be a Bowling Tournament in May, and they have various garage sales throughout the year to raise money.

This past November, they held the 10th annual Foster Kid Parent Respite Night. It is a holiday event for foster kids of all ages to have fun, and a much needed night off for foster parents.

All of this good work takes time and money. The rotary club operates strictly on a volunteer basis, so all items donated and money raised, go directly to the various projects. They will be collecting scarves, beanies, socks, and food for animals for the Stone Soup Night. They welcome monetary donations and always need items for their garage sales, etc. Like minded early birds in the community are invited to attend their weekly Friday meetings.

For more information, visit their website at www.lamesasunriserotary.com