When a friend invited Karin Carlson of NextHome Pacific Properties to a Rotary meeting three years ago, she says it exceeded all of her expectations. Soon after, she was inducted as a member of the Rotary Club of Kihei-Wailea—and she’s relished every moment since. “It feels good to know that we are making a difference in the community,” Carlson said.

It’s a sentiment shared by her fellow Kihei-Wailea Rotarians and Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) members, Kathleen Tezak of Elite Pacific Properties, LLC and Mark Harbison of Coldwell Banker Island Properties.

Rotary International is an international service organization composed of business and professional leaders who create positive, lasting change in communities around the world. There are more than 1.2 million Rotarians worldwide who abide by the same motto: “Service Above Self.” The Rotary Club of Kihei-Wailea, which was chartered in 1978, is one of nine Rotary clubs on Maui.

Without question, these Rotarians have a zeal for community service. Among other things, they award tuition scholarships to college-bound students; distribute dictionaries to every third grader at Kihei Charter School and Kihei and Kamalii Elementary Schools; and support the Interact clubs (Rotary-sponsored service clubs for youth) at Lokelani Intermediate School and Kihei Charter School.

And in 2017, the Rotary Club of Kihei-Wailea raised funds to install lifesaving rescue tube stations at six South Maui beach parks. The club was granted permission by the county to purchase and install the rescue tubes—sentinel flotation equipment that can stabilize distressed swimmers before rescue—every 300 feet from Kalama Park to Keawakapu Beach. Since 2017, the club has installed 40 tube stations along the South Maui coastline; Carlson says at least 10 lives were saved in 2018 through the use of the devices.

The need for these rescue tubes cannot be overstated. Rogue waves, rip tides and strong currents can appear out of nowhere—and occur more often than most realize. According to the state Department of Health, ocean drownings are the second leading cause of fatal injuries in Maui County and are responsible for more deaths than vehicular or motorcycle accidents.

The tube stations are hard to miss: The bright, banana-yellow cylindrical flotation devices are conspicuously placed at the high-water mark mauka (mountain-side) of the vegetation line. The rescue tubes are mounted on tall poles topped with a yellow flag; the poles are equipped with a GPS position locater so 911 dispatchers will know where to send emergency responders.

The tubes, which are designed to keep three adults afloat, are outfitted with a 10-foot-long tether line at one end. In an emergency situation, bystanders can toss the tube into the water or—if they can safely do so—swim out with it so the distressed swimmer can hold on to it until emergency responders arrive. The club bought the rescue tubes from the Rescue Tube Foundation, a Kauai-based organization that aims to lower the incidence of drowning by providing a sufficient number of these lifesaving devices at recreational aquatic environments throughout the state.

Kihei-Wailea Rotarians routinely monitor and maintain the tube stations and hope to see them installed on beaches countywide. The club’s rescue tube chairperson, Gary Redfern, is currently working with three Rotary clubs in Lahaina to install 22 rescue tube stations on West Maui beaches (the locations are still undetermined).

Needless to say, these Rotarians stay busy. And you can help them continue their good work. The Rotary Club of Kihei-Wailea will hold its annual fundraising dinner, “Kaina Kountry Rocks for Rotary with emcee Kathy Collins,” at Mulligans on the Blue in Wailea from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16. The event will raise money for the club’s service projects. There will be a buffet dinner, silent auction (you can bid on items online prior to and during the event) and live music and entertainment by Kaina Kountry, a country music band guaranteed to get everyone on the dance floor.

Carlson is the chairperson of this year’s fundraiser and encourages everyone to attend. “Not only will you have an opportunity to contribute to the club’s projects, but you’ll also have a lot of fun,” she said.

To learn more about the Rotary Club of Kihei-Wailea or to purchase tickets for the Feb. 16 fundraiser, visit www.mauirotary.org. Tickets are $85 per person. Sponsorships are still available. The online silent auction opens on Tuesday, Jan. 15; visit 32Auctions.com/RCKW2019 to place your bid.

By Sarah Ruppenthal
The Maui News – January 5, 2019

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