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Russell Graydon, left, and Mark Heard with Rotary Foundation Chairman Luis Giay of Argentina.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Russell Graydon, left, and Mark Heard with Rotary Foundation Chairman Luis Giay of Argentina.

Decatur impresses Rotary leader
Foundation chairman
speaks to local club

By Ronnie Thomas 340-2438

Argentinian Luis Vicente Giay, chairman of The Rotary Foundation, had an idea of what to expect from Rotarians during his first trip to the River City. He has worked closely with several members.

What struck him most about Decatur, he said, is the way residents protect historical memorabilia.

"It is unusual to find a town this size where the people are taking care of monuments and landmarks, reconnecting with the past very carefully and taking pride, a demonstration of the majority of the population in this part of the world," he said.

Traveling around U.S.

Giay, 67, a resident of Arrecifes in the state of Buenos Aires, qualifies to pass judgment. A former Rotary International president, he has traveled the world and, since July, much of the United States.

He spoke about his travels Monday before addressing the Decatur club. He reeled off other American cities he's visited this year: Hershey, Pa., Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, San Diego, Syracuse, N.Y., and Denver.

"But Decatur," he said, "is one of the holy lands of Rotary," bringing a smile to host Mark Maloney.

They met in 1989 in Phoenix, when Giay was treasurer of Rotary International and Maloney was district governor for North Alabama.

Last week, Giay spent a week of extensive training at Rotary headquarters in Evanston, Ill., that included Decatur Rotarian Ken Schuppert, who was district governor when Giay was president in 1996-97.

"Now, Ken is playing an important role as Rotary Foundation regional coordinator, covering an extensive area from the Gulf Coast to Central Indiana," said Giay, who also noted that Decatur's Pete Henderson was district governor in 1968-69.

Right-hand man

And Maloney, one of 15 Rotary Foundation trustees, is serving Giay as vice chairman.

"He's my right hand. He does good work in many areas of the world and, supported by his wife, Gay, sets the tone of the opportunities of the foundation," Giay said. "I recognize the great value of them and other members and thank them for their continued support of Rotary International."

Giay said local leadership, regional influence, international participation and humanitarian efforts in a "great spirit of service" characterize Decatur Rotarians.

Rotary projects

"I came to Decatur and am traveling the world encouraging Rotarians to promote projects of the Foundation and asking for funds to support them," he said.

As an example, he said, Rotarians just completed a project in Panama installing a potable water system with support of the foundation and the local club of David, Panama.

"There are more than 200,000 foundations in the United States," Giay said. "The Rotary Foundation is rated among the 50 best, based on efficiency of the administration and program stewardship of funds. And I'm very proud of it."

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