By BROOKE ROBINSON, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — The Inter-Lakes High School Interact Club inducted 19 members this Monday, almost doubling their size to 39 total members. The club is sponsored by the Meredith Rotary Club and engages in service projects to help the local and global community.
The evening began with a brief introduction of the club by Meredith Rotary Club Adviser Gary Dehnel. He explained that there are Rotary-sponsored Interact Clubs across the globe.
"There's 144 Interact Clubs or so around the world. There's about 440,000 of you Interacters around the world doing fellowship, friendship and service activities."
I-LHS 2016 graduate and former Interact Club International Community Service Chairperson Victoria Heffron delivered a keynote address about her recent volunteer experience in Togo, West Africa. Heffron explained that she worked for a non-governmental organization for health development and women's rights, working at orphanages, raising funds and more. She went on to describe how her experience humbled her and impacted her life. "Although other people's pain does not undermine your own, it's extremely important to realize our luck and our privilege and use it to help others," she said. Finally, Heffron ended by praising the new inductees, saying that joining Interact shows that they care about helping and will do great things in their lives. "The reality is that fear is limiting an absurd amount of people from going out and doing something incredible with their lives," Heffron said, "but you guys are the exception."
Rotarian Dean Gulezian spoke briefly about the Rotary Youth Exchange program that gives students an opportunity to travel abroad either for a school year or during the summer. Eight thousand students participate in this exchange every year.
"The program is really a phenomenal cultural immersion," Gulezian said. "You totally immerse yourself into the culture you go into."
Outbound long-term exchange students from I-LHS spend either their junior year or their gap year between high school and college abroad with a host family. Conversely, short-term exchange students spend at least three weeks with a host family abroad and also brings their host sibling to the U.S. He also stressed the need for host families for the inbound exchange students for the coming school year.
After the 19 new members were inducted by Rotary Club Advisers Gary Dehnel and Ray Goodby, Interact Club President Jackson Williams presented a donation of 1,371 pairs of socks to local charity organizations that were collected from I-LHS students. Williams stressed the importance of these less thought of clothing donations.
"It's something that's often forgotten when going to a local foundation or charity to donate clothing items or food," Williams expressed. "Socks are really important for warmth and it's just a necessary item for everyone to have." The socks were presented to Elizabeth Brothers and Andrea Condodemetraky of the Santa Fund of the Greater Lakes Region, Scott McNeil of the Laconia Salvation Army and Martha Aucoin of the Vineyard Food and Clothes Pantry in Lakeport. Socks were also donated to the Families in Need Fund of Meredith.
All of the receivers emphasized the personal significance of giving a pair of socks to people who need them. Aucoin from the Lakes Region Vineyard Church said that they focus on respecting the people who come through their doors.
"We go in and talk to them and really interact with them. We really try to treat them with dignity," she said.
McNeil from the Salvation Army echoed Aucoin's sentiments.
"The greatest thing I can share with you about these socks," he said, "is that I'll have the opportunity to hand them out face to face with a lot of people after a great conversation."
Santa Fund's Condodemetraky explained the delight that the organization sees on children's faces when they receive the outerwear that is donated to them.
"When we are able to give them a pair of socks to go with their hat that we let them pick out, they have hope that they didn't have when they walked in the door," she said.
The I-LHS Interact Club has plans for the future such as running the phone bank at the Greater Lakes Region Children's Auction in December and caroling at the New Hampshire Veterans Home.
The Inter-Lakes High School Interact Club was joined by recipients of their sock drive at the induction ceremony Monday of new members. (Brooke Robinson/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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