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Rotary helps with ShelterBox
Category: Service Projects | By RotaryGlobal, 28-Dec-2010 | Viewed 5253  Comments 0 | Original Source
ShelterBox Content
By Jeanne Towar

From the devastation of Haiti to cocktails with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Bill Decker has had quite a year. Decker spoke about his adventures as board chairman and response team member for ShelterBox USA at the Birmingham Rotary Club's Nov. 29 meeting at The Community House.

The overflow crowd included District Gov. Janet McPeek from Lake Orion Rotary, immediate Past District Gov. Judy Garver of West Bloomfield, Assistant District Govs. Mary Sloan of Clarkston Rotary and George Hedgespeth Jr. of Troy, as well as visiting Rotarians from Royal Oak, Berkley, Troy, Farmington and Auburn Hills.

Decker was introduced by his father-in-law, George Stern.

"I was so proud when my son-in-law joined Rotary, and even prouder that he would devote himself to an activity that is so important in my life," Stern said.

ShelterBox was founded by a Rotarian in 2000 to serve the emergency needs of disaster survivors around the world. Its motto is, "Do something besides nothing." Since then, the organization has provided shelter, warmth and dignity following more than 140 disasters in 70 countries.

Each ShelterBox contains a tent for up to 10 people, tools, cook stove, children's activities, water purification and other equipment tailored to the climate and conditions, to enable a family to survive at least six months.

"The contents of the ShelterBox are so much more," Decker said. "It's a big box of hope. It brings meaning to what you are doing with your life."

The box itself, made of tough green plastic, has been put to many uses, including as a rain catcher, wheelbarrow and cradle. The tents have also been used for surgery and isolation rooms, pharmacies and morgues. Each planeload holds about 16,000 ShelterBoxes and each box costs $1,000, including delivery.

Working with United Nations Peacekeepers and the U.S. 92nd Army Airborne in Haiti, ShelterBox had people on the ground within 48 hours of the first earthquake. This year Decker and his team have made two trips to Haiti where they delivered more than 29,000 ShelterBoxes.

"Living in that environment, thinking about the living and the dying, it's a hard thing to see on a daily basis," Decker told the crowd. "Having friends and colleagues there helps."

Before returning home to Philadelphia, Decker flew to London for cocktails with the Duchess of Cornwell, the former Camilla Parker Bowles, who serves as honorary chairperson of ShelterBox Worldwide.

Last year, Decker spent two weeks working with a Rotary club in the Philippines, where a dozen planeloads of ShelterBoxes were delivered at the site of mudslides near Mt. Pinatubo.

Birmingham Rotary, which has already donated four ShelterBoxes, took up a collection after Decker spoke. Led by a $1,000 check from Rotarian Pat Deighan, the crowd chipped in to buy at least three additional ShelterBoxes, with the promise of more to come.

"ShelterBox provides a tangible way for individual and civic groups to make a difference following a disaster," said Decker. Donations can be made to ShelterBox USA, 8374 Market St. #203, Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202. Interested in volunteering for a Response Team? Call Decker at (267) 519-5247.

To honor Decker's appearance, Birmingham Rotary offered the highest honor given by Rotary International, a Paul Harris Fellowship. Decker presented the award to his wife, Julie, saying, "I get a lot of accolades, but Julie makes it all possible by staying home and taking care of our children."

Look for Birmingham Rotarians ringing bells for The Salvation Army at Biggby Coffee, 1112 S. Old Woodward (at Maple), on Saturday and again Dec. 18.
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