Although he’s been involved with the Rotary for many years, Roger Mattes Jr. was recently introduced to the organization’s more international aspects.
Mattes, who hails from Nicholson, joined the Rotary Club of the Abingtons in Clarks Summit back in 1985. Although he had to drop out while pursuing his law degree, Mattes returned to the Abingtons chapter in 2003, and has served as its president.
“I joined because I loved the aspect of serving the community - both on a local and world-wide scale,” Mattes explained.
Mattes was nominated by the Abingtons chapter for the district governor’s position. He was interviewed by a special committee and selected among a slate of candidates.
Although he won’t assume his responsibilities until July, Mattes and his wife Jackie, who is also a Rotary member, recently traveled to San Diego, Calif., to attend the Rotary International Assembly.
“All of the 550 governors-elect from all over the world were there. Many of them came in their native garb,” he said.
District 7410 includes 43 different Rotary chapters throughout most of Northeast Pennsylvania - including Tunkhannock - from the Lehigh Tunnel up to the New York border and as far west as Athens and Sayre.
Mattes will succeed Karin-Susan Breitlauch in July.
As governor, he will be working with all clubs in the district, coordinating their efforts, assisting them in any way he can, Mattes said.
“I act as the liaison between the clubs and Rotary International in Evanston, Ill.” he explained.
One of his goals, Mattes said, will be to help all the chapters in the district coordinate their efforts, allowing them to be more effective in their international relief efforts. The primary areas of focus for the Rotary are a concentrated effort on education; improving health; community development; promoting peace; disease prevention; providing clean water and sanitation; and protecting mothers.
The Rotary, he said, has been a big player in providing assistance to communities throughout the world.
“I’ve been involved with Operation Honduras, which over the past 10 years has fitted 10,000 glasses for the poor,” he explained.
The Rotary worked in partnership with the Lions Club to supply the glasses, as well as cataract surgery to those who need it.
One of the most famous of Rotary’s international efforts is its student exchange program. Mattes has served as the Youth Exchange Officer for the Abingtons Rotary, and is a huge booster of the program.
“We take all these bright, intelligent and wonderful kids and give them a chance to see life from our side - as well as those who go to other countries. It’s a wonderful experience for both.”
Mattes is very proud of the effort the Rotary has made to assist communities - both on a local and world-wide scale. He pointed out that the Rotary began a program back in 1985 to eradicate polio.
“When we started, there were 1,000 new cases of polio being reported every single day, and 350,000 every single year,” he explained.
He said the Rotary, in partnership with the World Health Organization as well as Bill Gates, raised billions of dollars for world-wide immunization programs. As a result of those programs, there were only 27 cases of polio reported in 2017.
“We hope to eventually see that polio will become the second disease to become extinct,” he said.
Each individual Rotary Club has its own unique characteristics, and has done many wonderful things for the communities they serve. Mattes said he would now like the clubs to act in unison on various projects, allowing them to reach higher goals.
“Each club acts as an individual club,” he said. “I would like to see them acting more together as a district. Because with more numbers, we can accomplish much greater things. We are all in this together.”