The Minnetonka Rotary is doing its part, one penny at a time, to try to eliminate polio from the world.
The club, a branch of Rotary International, has its approximately 40 members send around a jug at each weekly meeting to collect cents and dollars for its “Pennies for Polio” fundraiser.
In 2013, the club raised $1,200 simply by passing around the jug, said Neal Enzenauer, a Minnetonka Rotary member since 1992. The club has raised $3,400 since it started fundraising for polio in 2010.
“Pennies for Polio brings it down to the root level,” Enzenauer said. “We know we can make a difference.”
Members donate loose cents and dollars from their pockets or bring in small plastic bags and coffee cups full of change, Enzenauer said.
“It’s whatever people feel motivated to contribute at the time,” he said.
The money Rotary clubs around the world raise goes toward administering vaccines, immunizing children and educating about polio, Enzenauer said.
The United States has been polio-free since 1979, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. But the disease still exists in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, where political and cultural factors have complicated the battle. In 2013, there were also outbreaks in Cameroon, Somalia, Syria, Ethiopia and Kenya.
In 1988, there were 350,000 new cases of polio, but that number was down to 403 cases by 2013, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. However, getting back to hundreds of thousands of cases a year is still a threat should polio be forgotten, Enzenauer said.
Since Rotary International began “PolioPlus,” its program for eradicating polio, it has raised $1.2 billion and immunized 2.5 million children against the disease.
“Polio is a debilitating disease that scars people for life,” Enzenauer said. “We feel that with the end game in sight, we won’t lose focus.”
To donate to the cause, visit www.endpolio.org.
Danielle Dullinger is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.