During the ‘80s and ‘90s the profile of the Ballymoney Club increased within Ireland.
The Club won the District Award for being the friendliest club – just carrying on the tradition for which Ballymoney people were already famous!
In 1990 the Club won the trophy for the highest attendance at an Annual Conference.
The business community, as reflected in the Club’s 40-strong membership, enabled the Rotary Club to embrace some ambitious initiatives and some large fundraising ventures were undertaken.
In 1987 five members took part in the Maracycle raising £8,000 for Polio Plus and the Ballymoney Branch of Hospice Support. In 1992 a bike ride from Cork to the Causeway (in a little more than 36 hours) raised a similar sum for the Coleraine Scanner Appeal.
The Club is much more than a fundraising organisation. The Rotary motto of ‘Service above Self’ ensures that time and effort are given to community ventures. Recognising the selfless work undertaken by huge numbers of people within the local community, Ballymoney Rotary Club organised and the Parish centre hosted a Community Soup Sunday serving lunch to over 1,000 people from 11am until 2.30pm in September 1990.
All of the local churches bought into the idea and the 23 charities with branches in Ballymoney also had space for stalls to promote their particular service to the community.
Money raised was shared equally amongst those local charities and the opportunity of having a shop window enabled each of the organisations to gain new supporters.
Continuing the principle of service, one of the Club’s initiatives at International level was to acknowledge the generosity of Past President Sam Moore who donated one of his Moore Unidrills to the Ethiopian government as a practical way to help tackle the soil erosion problem which
contributed to the famine the country experienced during the ‘80s.
The Club’s members covered the cost involved in transporting the equipment from Ballymoney to Addis Ababa.
Another facet of the Rotary movement is the Annual Youth Leadership Scheme. Facilitated by the Ballymoney Club, senior pupils from the three schools in Ballymoney, one in Bushmills and two in Ballycastle put themselves forward for interviews, competing for the Ballymoney nomination for a place on the team from Ireland who spend some time at the European Parliament in Strasbourg and contribute to a whole day set aside for young people to debate relevant topics.
A steady stream of talent from north Antrim has made it onto the Irish delegations – a hugely beneficial experience for those young people who took part at all levels of the competition.
Rotary International has a Foundation which distributes huge amounts of money to educational initiatives including bursaries for international study. Ireland attracts numerous international students – sometimes over 20 per year, to study subjects as diverse as Victorian literature in Dublin, Agriculture at Queen’s, and Peace and Reconciliation in Maynooth.
Ballymoney’s reputation for hospitality was recognised by these visitors as the Club regularly hosted all of them over a weekend each May. They stayed with the families of Ballymoney Rotarians and shared stories of their origins and aspirations with the Club. The Ballymoney weekend became a favourite part of their year in Ireland.