Rotary Club Celebrates 19th Year of Dictionary Gifting

Pictured is a student enjoying his copy of the Rotary dictionary gift. (Photo by Rick Mueller)

Gary Whiting, RCSL Past Club President and Rotary International Past District 5510 Governor (edited by Dr. Honora Norton, RCSL Public Image Chair)

In the Summer of 2002, Rotary Club of Sun Lakes (RCSL) Rotarian Dwight Grotewold visited the Rotary Club of Logan, Utah, and learned about their elementary school project called A Dictionary for 3rd Graders. As a former K-12 teacher and recently retired Vice President of Admissions for the University of Colorado, Dwight introduced this project to the RCSL Board and members for implementation in Rotary year 2003-04. The RCSL 3rd Grade Dictionary Project fundraising was immediately started, and in RCSL’s first year, over 5,000 dictionaries were distributed to 3rd graders in the Chandler Unified School District, Gilia Indian Schools, private schools, and Title 9 programs in the immediate Chandler/Gilbert area, along with the Gilbert Unified School District for just the first year.

Past distribution required each RCSL member and friend of the RCSL to attend a dictionary preparation “pizza” party, then personally contact each school to set up a day of distribution that would allow them to provide each student with their own dictionary, with the classroom teacher involvement, which usually takes place in the gym, lunchroom, and, with some schools, an outside area.

RCSL Rotarians and others believed that this project would help each student become better spellers, readers, thinkers, and speakers. And the teachers have constantly been the number-one supporter, as they use the dictionary for class projects and take-home assignments. A Student’s Dictionary & Gazetteer is more than just words and definitions. It contains sections on world geography, civics, multiplication tables, science, the water cycle, planets, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and presidents, and even has illustrations for sign language and braille. And when the students see the longest word in the English language, which contains 1,909 letters, the fun starts. As a part of the presentation, we ask the teacher and students to write us a short letter on how they like their dictionary after a couple months. Their letters will make you proud of why you are part of this outstanding annual education project.

As RCSL begins its 19th year, RCSL is reminded of the great experiences of the past this project has provided for the students, the local communities, the 135 Arizona Rotary clubs and members, along with friends of Rotary. To name a couple of highlights that RCSL has experienced:

• In 2007 State of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano was so enthusiastic about this Rotary project that she personally participated in one Mesa school presentation.

• In 2010 Dwight Grotewold and Sun Lakes resident/PDG Gary Whiting (the president of the Rotary Gift of Life-Arizona Foundation that provided 309 lifesaving heart surgeries for needy children with congenital heart defects) obtained additional outside funding to provide some 70,000 dictionaries across Arizona via the Arizona Rotary clubs and assisted by other interested groups.

RCSL celebrates its 19th consecutive year of an outstanding and life changing educational project. For more information about RCSL, see