Bob Kelley, right, recently received the Rotary Foundation Distinguished Service Award for his service to Rotary. With Kelley is Tom Mann, District Governor for Rotary District 6880. -- Special photo

Bob Kelley wins Rotary Club’s Distinguished Service Award

Published 1:09am Tuesday, August 7, 2012

For the past twenty years there have been three things Bob Kelley has focused his life on – his family, his business and his service to others through the Selma Rotary Club.

Kelley, who joined the Selma Rotary Club in 1992, was recently honored with one of the most prestigious Rotary awards possible – the Rotary Foundation Distinguished Service Award. Rotary International trustees recognize up to 50 Rotarians each year with the “DSA,” as Rotarians call it, which is not a significant number until you realize there are more than 1 million Rotarians worldwide.

Kelley was surprised with the honor during a recent Selma Rotary Club meeting, one where his daughter, Renee, was also honored with her second Paul Harris Fellow award. Being a Paul Harris Fellow means a Rotarian has donated a minimum of $1,000 to the Annual Programs Fund, PolioPlus, or the Humanitarian Grants Program, or people who have that amount contributed in their name.

Keeping with the Rotary motto, “Service above self,” Kelley was quick to thank others for his receiving the award.

“This club is why I’m still in Rotary. Without you, I probably wouldn’t still be [in the club.] It’s the people that make the difference, and if I didn’t like the people and the town that I live in, I wouldn’t be a part of this.”

Kelley’s love for Rotary ignited when fellow club member Ramsey Knight took him to a Rotary meeting in another town. He later attended his first district conference, which really began to open his eyes about what Rotary was, and how the volunteer organization was making a difference in communities all over the world.

Kelley, who was raised overseas, saw the international aspects of the club and that appealed to him knowing he was becoming part of something much larger than his local club.

“When you see what Rotary does in foreign countries, it will change your life,” he said.

“I’ve traveled to several different countries such as Africa and South America and I’ve seen the poverty and it just caught me.”

Kelley volunteered to be a team leader for a group study exchange to Argentina in 1996, and later became a district governor and began to meet other Rotarians on an international level.

Kelley has also participated in Rotary Zone Meetings and he also has experience as an instructor at the Rotary Leadership Institute.

His family, which owns and operates the Tally-Ho restaurant in Selma has been along for the Rotary ride with him every step of the way, with his wife Donna helping look after the business while Bob volunteered and daughter Renee tagging along on “Rotary vacations.”

“I got to travel all over the world with him being in Rotary, learning about other people and their culture and how Rotary helps all around the world,” said Renee, who was recently sworn in as president of the Selma Rotary Club. “It really opened my eyes to what people are doing for each other all over the world.”

Knight remembers Kelley’s early interest in Rotary and is proud of what Kelley has achieved through Rotary, including being honored with the DSA, which he said was “an earned honor and not a political honor.”

“Bob is a very talented individual and he meets people well. And he has time because he has good management at the restaurant, he’s a good public speaker and he’s very sincere in the ideals of Rotary” Knight said.

According to Rotary International, to receive the DSA a Rotarian has to be nominated by someone outside the nominee’s district. It’s also only given for exceptional service and is not based solely on financial contributions. They must also have received a Citation for Meritorious Service at least four complete “Rotary years,” among other qualifications.

One aspect of Rotary International Kelley is most proud of is the organization’s efforts to rid the world of polio, something that is close to happening.

“Last year was the first year India did not have any wild virus in their country and there are only three countries remaining that have residents infected with polio – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria,” Kelley said. “If we’re going to get rid of polio in the world, this is the time we need to put emphasis on it.”

Through it all, Kelley points to the relationships he’s built and the feeling of knowing he’s truly making a difference not only in his small part of the world but worldwide.

“More than anything I’ve made hundreds of friends and it’s knowing we’re doing good works, saving lives and making a difference in the world and in our communities. I just love being a part of something that’s positive,” Kelley said.

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