POWER OF 9: The Inner Wheel of Baton Rouge

POWER OF 9: The Inner Wheel of Baton Rouge
Updated: Apr. 2, 2018 at 3:55 PM CDT
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Baton Rouge Regional Eye Bank was able to buy a specular microscope for preparing corneas for...
Baton Rouge Regional Eye Bank was able to buy a specular microscope for preparing corneas for tissue donations (Source: Baton Rouge Regional Eye Bank)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Remember the 1980s, back when big hair was popular for women and men and Space Invaders was the most popular video game? The Rotary Club had a garage sale to raise money for polio. The Rotary wives had so much fun, they created their own club.

Member, Sandra Campbell, remembers, "We chartered Inner Wheel Club of Baton Rouge in 1990. I was one of the charter members and the youngest at the time! I can't believe it has been 28 years. About four years ago, we formed a past presidents' club and meet four times a year. There are about five of us that have served two terms as president. Keigh Ballard was our first president in 1990."

Campbell says the club would have a special membership. "In the early years, you could only be a spouse of a Rotarian to join. However, it expanded some years later to children or grandchildren or nieces. For the past ten years, anyone invited can be a member of Inner Wheel Club. Since that time, we have been able to increase the funds given and what a blessing to form friendships with so many members and angels. I know if you were to ask any member or angel, they would tell you they are truly blessed to be a part of Inner Wheel," said Campbell.

Inner Wheel just finalized the total for its 2018 Trash and Treasure Sale and it raised more than $230,000. Campbell says over the years, the sale has pumped $2,324,490 into the community.

That first sale was tiny by comparison. Now, the Trash and Treasure sale occupies 40 thousand square feet of floor space. It was happily crammed into the empty floor space of the old Mervyn's store at the Mall at Cortana. The secret to their success is the joy with which they greet each other. Those friendships assure fun is a part of every project they do. Inner Wheel doesn't just throw money at a cause, they roll up their sleeves. Inner Wheel, with the help of Habitat for Humanity, just finished a brand new home for a needy family. Habitat says they finished the landscaping in late March.

In 2017, the sale raised $201,000 in just three days. You only need to ask, and charities sing their praise and gratitude for Inner Wheel's help.

Jamie Collier of Baton Rouge Regional Eye Bank points to a vitally important piece of equipment. "In 2017, we used these funds to purchase a much needed specular microscope, which aids in evaluating donated cornea tissue for transplant. We are grateful to be the tier 1 recipient of the 2018 sale. We hope to use the funds to purchase new software and transition to paperless charting," said Collier.

Michael Acaldo with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's homeless shelters, soup kitchens, community pharmacies, and thrift stores says the Inner Wheel support goes directly to the needy in our community. "In 2017, our dining room served over 267,000 meals, but that number is much more than a statistic. It represents people of all ages who rely on us for this basic necessity. The food we provide helps many of the people we serve to survive on limited budgets that are stretched to the breaking point, and it's not unusual to hear someone say this is the first hot meal they've had in days. Thanks to the Inner Wheel, we are able to provide hot lunches and brown bag suppers every day of the year. Inner Wheel support allows us to purchase critical food, supplies for our dining room service. It also helps us to pay our utilities and other critical operating expenses that help keep our doors open to those we are blessed to serve," said Acaldo.

Also serving the poor, Salvation Army's Major Brett R. Meredith says, "We have used the funds from Inner Wheel to assist clients in the Salvation Army CSRC (Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation Program) as well as to help provide after school tutoring and programming for underprivileged school students at our community center at 4025 W Brookstown Rd. in North Baton Rouge."

The Hospice of Baton Rouge is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide end of life care and support in a home or homelike setting for patients and their loved ones. Director, Andrea Miller, says, "The funds given by Inner Wheel were used through the Patient Care Fund, which allows the organization to provide expert care for anyone that's eligible for hospice, regardless of their financial resources. "

"The Inner Wheel has been very instrumental in its support of the McMains Children's Developmental Center," said executive director, Anne Hindrichs. "Its generosity has provided therapy services and adapted devices thereby helping children in our community become as independent as possible."

Inner Wheel organizer, Cheryl Barton Olinde, says, "We are just one piece of the puzzle that makes Baton Rouge a wonderful place to live!"

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