The charter president of the Rotary Club of Saipan, “Uncle Dave” M. Sablan, took the podium yesterday at their weekly meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan that also saw the civic organization welcoming prospective members.
Sablan, who became a Rotary member in Guam in 1957 and helped found the local group in 1968, said that service to the community was ingrained in him during the club’s formative years.
Months after the organization received its charter, Typhoon Jean hit the Marianas and forced the fledgling club into action to try to help people who were devastated by the natural calamity.
“We were just starting then and we had 31 members. We needed some money to help the community recover from the typhoon. We wrote to every Rotary Club that we have addresses, including the Rotary International, asking them for money.”
He got a resounding “no” on his request for monetary handouts from off-island Rotary Clubs—and for good reason.
“Believe it or not my hands were slapped. They said ‘don’t make it habit to ask for money because money is not everything in Rotary.’ Instead they said ‘you are very welcome to write to us and tell us what you want. Do you want a dental chair? Write to the various clubs that you know, write to Rotary International, put in the [Rotary] magazine what you need, who you are, and where you come from.’ So these are the things that the Rotary can do.”
Sablan and company followed the advice and, true enough, the local club eventually got what it wanted in the form of 12 tons of clothing from Hawaii via a military C-130.
“We did receive from money, mostly from Japan and Guam. We took that money and we bought portable cement mixers, lumber and we sent a large number of that to Tinian and Rota to rehabilitate themselves.”
Another anecdote he shared was the time he became an honorary Texan by simply fulfilling his duties for the club.
“I’ve been in various positions in Rotary aside from being president of the Saipan Rotary. I was a treasurer in Guam. I was also very active in community services. I have a flag at home, the flag of the state of Texas, that the base commander of Andersen Air Force Base gave to me in the 1960s when they celebrated a Texas holiday of some sort.”
He narrated that he was involved in the Battle of San Jacinto Day celebrations at the U.S, military facility as a member of the Rotary Club. As a result of his involvement, he was given a plaque from Texas Gov. John Connally that made him an honorary Texan.
“This is what happens when you join the Rotary Club. You don’t know what you’re going into and before you know it you’re guilty. I’m guilty,” he quipped.
Sablan told Rotary members and prospective members that, as Rotarians and future Rotarians, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for outside help.
“Let’s not confine ourselves to the limited capability of our club. Let’s go out and tap the people throughout the world because we are an international organization. Let’s use that to advance ourselves, find the need, and try to finish [what we started].”
Before ending his testimonial, Sablan urged the current leadership of the Rotary to grow the membership as well as continue the group’s legacy of service to the CNMI.
“I just hope we continue to increase membership because Rotary is really an organization that helps the community, helps the people, and helps the children.”