Hundreds of Rotarians applauded as a 25-foot recreational vehicle rambled toward the Fess Parker hotel, a palm-lined resort on the Pacific oceanfront in Santa Barbara, Calif.  

Two Rotarians, two Rotaractors, and a district governor on board the RV had just concluded a 2,400-mile road trip that originated in Seattle nearly two weeks earlier, stopping for service projects in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Arizona. (There was also a kickoff party in October in Hawaii.) The road trip helped link Rotarians with charitable organizations in their home communities, encouraged clubs to partner with their crosstown counterparts, and illustrated the scope and value of Rotary.

After a brief welcome, more than 400 Rotarians, some with spouses, piled onto buses and followed the RV to two Boys & Girls clubs in Santa Barbara where they hoisted paintbrushes, sandpaper, hammers, and rakes to revitalize the youth centers. (Local Rotarians, along with members of Interact and Rotaract, met separately to refurbish a third club, in Carpinteria.) Dozens stayed behind at the hotel to fill 400 backpacks that would later be given to the children. The point: a potent display of the power of Rotary.

“I was amazed,” says Jeff Henley, vice chairman of Oracle Corp. and a governor of the national board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, who watched the mob of Rotarians give a center a face-lift by painting the hallways and gymnasiums, adding storage lockers, weeding playfields, and refinishing picnic tables.