Recent Saguaro High School graduate Acacia Wastchak never met her grandfather, David Wastchak, who died before she was born.
But that didn’t stop the 17-year-old from continuing his legacy as an impassioned, accomplished Rotarian.
“My grandfather was actually a pioneer Rotarian in Arizona and was very big into everything Rotary,” Acacia said. “I feel very connected to him whenever I do things with Rotary.”
Acacia’s accomplishments as a teenage Rotarian run long. She joined the Rotary Interact District 5495 Council’s executive board as assistance district governor and also embarked on a short-term Rotary youth exchange to Ecuador for six weeks.
High school may now be behind her, but Acacia’s work as a Rotarian is far from over.
This month, Acacia, along with her 15-year-old sister Lauryl, helped the Rotary Club of Scottsdale load a truck full of $400,000 worth of medical supplies for five hospitals in Sonora, Mexico – the location of one of Scottsdale’s long-time sister cities, Alamos.
“It was really fun and I got to connect with some other Rotarians. It’s always fun to meet Rotarians,” Acacia said.
Members of the Rotary Club of Scottsdale were joined by members of the Club Rotario de Phoenix, Rotary Club of Tempe South and Rotary Club of Prescott, as well as other Rotarians, to pack the 53-foot long SWIFT commercial truck with supplies donated by Tempe-based Project C.U.R.E.
Donated items include hospital beds, examination beds, walkers, crutches and bandages to meet the immediate needs of the COVID crisis.
“This donation of medical supplies, beds, and support equipment is perfectly timed for the immediate needs that have been caused by the COVID 19 crisis,” said Rotarian Dale Gray of the Rotary Club of Scottsdale.
Gray led the project with the support of fellow Rotarians, David Pastor and Max Rumbaugh.
“Mexico in general and Sonora specifically have a battle going on and the addition of more beds and supplies will make it better for the hospital and the patients impacted by this virus,” Gray said.
Seven Rotary Clubs in Arizona District 5495 and Club Rotarios in Sonora, Mexico donated money to pay for the transportation and cross-border expenses.
Once the medical supplies were loaded, the truck headed straight to Hermosillo Mexico for inspection and acceptance, with supply drop-offs in San Luis Río Colorado, Puerto Peñasco, Ciudad Obregón, Navajoa, and Alamos, which received a used ambulance donated by Phoenix’s American Medical Response.
“Rotarians and medical professionals went and did a survey of the five most needy hospitals in Sonora, and those are going to be the beneficiaries of the trucks that we’re sending down there,” Acacia explained.
A second truck will be loaded with more medical equipment, including surgical equipment, anesthesia machines, incubators and baby warmers, more consumable supplies and more PPE, and shipped off in about two more weeks.
“Our goal, with the Ministry of Health Sonora, is to improve the ability of the hospitals to provide new services locally consistent the Ministry’s goals and training programs,” Gray said.
The Rotary Club of Scottsdale is also working alongside other Clubs to assist the Navajo Tribe with getting water into their homes.
“[It’s] so critical in proper hygiene for stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Gray said of the Navajo Tribe water project. “This is the third year of this project, and it is funded for over $400,000, involving our District 5495 and multiple clubs.”
The Rotary Club of Scottsdale is also working on a wheelchair project in central Mexico; expanding their multi-year Crutches for Africa to Crutches for Mexico; supporting a water project in South Sudan, as well as Hepatitis prevention in Mongolia; and supporting a recently completed a water project in Nicaragua that provided water to 3,000 people.
“We gave out over $65,000 in scholarships to Scottsdale high school students last week, donated $10,000 to a Food Bank, painted houses of elderly, and other local efforts,” Gray said, noting:.
“Our club and our district are very active in helping people in need across the city, state, country, and across the world.”
In the fall, Acacia will pursue a degree in international trade at ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management.
She’ll also join the collegiate-level Rotary club, Rotaract, as well join the state council.
But in the meantime, Acacia will volunteer at least one more time for the Rotary Club of Scottsdale to help load more medical supplies to Sonora, an effort that’s especially important to her.
“I had the opportunity to be a youth ambassador to our sister city of Alamos, which is one of the cities that is benefiting from this project,” she said.
“Since I went to Alamos, it was really important to me to be a part of this. That is benefiting people that I came in contact with.”
The Rotary Club of Scottsdale writes “love notes” on the boxes to let the recipients know they’re thinking of them and wish them well, Gray said.
“Rotary’s theme is ‘people of action.’ With this said, we encourage more volunteers to join us in making a difference,” he added.
Acacia also encourages people to join the Rotary Club.
“Arizona is definitely a hot-spot for Rotary Clubs. We have one of the strongest Rotary districts in the country,” she said. “There’s just so many opportunities, and there’s a space for everyone to get involved and help.”
“If people want things to change, they have to participate. We can change the way people think by becoming friends in communities,” Gray added. “This is the way out of this crisis. Get involved in something that you are passionate about!”