By Kim West
Athens Rotary Club members and their guests celebrated Valentine’s Day locally while also raising money for community projects during Friday’s third annual Casino Night at the Limestone County Event Center.
With some dressed in tuxedos and others still in their business attire, more than 200 people sampled catered edibles and rotated among the charity gaming tables to try their luck at blackjack, craps and poker.
Jeff Hodges, the club’s director of administration, said $15,000 to $20,000 is raised each year by selling a limited number of tickets. He said each member buys at least one $75 ticket and is responsible for selling two more.
Athens Rotary, which has grown to more than 100 members and is one of the area’s most active civic clubs, made a $50,000 pledge toward the new Athens-Limestone Public Library’s capital campaign using money raised from the first two Casino Night fundraisers.
Hodges said this year’s proceeds would be spread among several service ventures. The club participates in projects ranging from planting trees along area roadways and raising money for the United Way campaign to filling and delivering bags of food for the Full Tummy Project, which provides students at-risk for hunger with weekend snacks and nonperishable meals.
And each spring, the club awards a $4,000 scholarship to a high-school senior from the Limestone and Athens school systems.
He said the organization has undergone a shift in philosophy in recent years, transitioning a focus on weekly lunches and making personal donations to also getting involved in more community projects.
“Rotary through the years has been a meet-and-greet club but it changed its focus a few years ago,” Hodges said. “We wanted to start doing more hands-on projects … and we’ve gotten a lot more active.”
The organization holds its weekly meeting at noon Friday in the Sandridge Student Center ballroom at Athens State University. For more information, visit http://www.athensrotaryclub.org.