Mesquite Rotary members Dale Rust, Misty Buchhalter and Keith Buchhalter delivered this “buddy bench” to a Mexicali school for the deaf last weekend.

Last Friday, before the crack of dawn, three members of the Mesquite Rotary Club headed south to make an important delivery.  Their destination:  Mexicali, Mexico. Keith and Misty Buchhalter and Dale Rust were on a mission to deliver a “buddy bench” to a Mexicali school, Centro de Atencion Multiple Eduardo Huet, the regional school for the deaf.

The idea of the bench is simple:  all the children at the school are told that the bench is a place to find a friend. They can go sit on the bench when they want to play with someone, or talk, or meet a new friend. Everyone is coached to watch the bench and show kindness and willingness to befriend any child who is there looking for companionship.

This was not the Rotarians’ first visit to the school. They spent time last winter helping paint the school’s classrooms as part of a joint Rotary project that is supported by several clubs in the U.S. southwest. Located in the border city with a population over a million people, the school serves children of very humble circumstances, and the helping hand provided by Rotary Clubs provides basic necessities and much-appreciated amenities for the children.

During their whirlwind trip, the Mesquite Rotarians stopped over at Holtville, California, to meet their Rotary colleagues who were distributing clothing to children in Mexicali.  All of them crossed the international border early Saturday and quickly got to work.

The Mesquite team assembled their bench and presented it to the school that morning. They then traveled across town to the neighborhood where the shoes and clothing were being distributed. They helped serve lunch provided to a hundred children by a charitable local pastor. Rust amazed the children when he used his Google translator app to turn their Spanish words into English so he could communicate with them. Rotary finds a way to bridge incidental gaps between people.

Rotarian Dale Rust, standing, “speak” Spanish to his young friends with the help of his Google language translator. (Photo submitted)

Rotary is an international humanitarian organization that works to support education as one part of their mission. Worldwide, Rotary has well over a million members in more than 35,000 local clubs. Those clubs do tremendous good in their own communities and reach out to help others in need of such diverse necessities as health care, safe water, assistance in growing local economies, and disaster relief. One of Rotary International’s most successful projects has been its initiative to wipe out polio worldwide. Toward that end, Rotary has assisted in vaccinating 2.5 billion children against that disease.

Seeking to provide a useful and meaningful gift for the Mexicali children who find themselves struggling with isolation along with learning disabilities caused by their hearing deficiency, the Mesquite club members gladly made that 800-mile, 24-hour round trip to deliver the buddy bench.

The Mexicali bench was not Mesquite Rotary’s first installation. Locally, they have given benches to the elementary schools in Beaver Dam, Arizona; Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa and Logandale. Other benches are being provided for the park at Beaver Dam High School and along the walking path that is being constructed in Mesquite from the Rising Star Sports Ranch to the Mesquite Library. Rotary receives requests for additional benches when schools see how effective they are in bringing kids together as playmates and friends.

The Mesquite Rotary Club meets at noon every Tuesday at the Holiday Day Inn Express. The club has recently grown to 22 members. It is a small but mighty group that accomplishes much. Rick Tuttle is the incoming president of this dynamic club. They are staging a 5k Glow Run fundraiser on Sept. 28 to help support their service projects.

During the year, 20 percent of their proceeds go to the Mesquite Reads summer program that reinforces reading skills for Virgin Valley kindergarten to third grade students who need extra help in reading at grade level. A similar donation supports the Desert Stars Special Olympics program, while the balance of Rotary funds provide support for the food bank and a multitude of activities that benefit the education, safety and well-being of our community, along with  regional and international projects such as the Mexicali buddy bench.

Rotary not only provides funding. Members roll up their sleeves and help with the hard work of distributing senior meals, installing home smoke detectors, planting trees in the Beaver Dam school park, and actually constructing the sturdy concrete buddy benches they donate.

A solid partner in many local projects is Mesquite Rotary’s counterpart, Sunrise Rotary Club of Mesquite. Sunrise holds its weekly meetings at Scottie’s Restaurant at Falcon Ridge Golf Club at 7:30 a.m. on Thursdays. Travis Lauterbach is the new Sunrise president. They hold a yearly Rotary Golf Tournament to raise funds, as well as staging the Mesquite Reads annual book sale.   These early birds offer an alternative meeting time for those interested in joining a club and volunteering in the community. Yet their purpose is the same. Rotarians serve their neighbors and promote the international Rotary humanitarian goals of peace and friendship.

Individuals who want to learn more about joining one of these groups or volunteering with a project, call Tuttle at 907-230-2360, or Deb Parsley at 702-420-4494.