The Mississippi River Runs Through U.S. – A Rotary Initiative
It is not often that a Global Grant has a Host Club from the United States. With the Areas of Focus being Environmental Sustainability and Clean Water, a group of passionate Rotarians are working on an initiative to have Rotary clubs work together to clean the waste along the Mississippi River. This major waterway transports 40% of our global food supply, and 60% of the world’s grain supply.
With an active Facebook page and some very informative videos, this initiative is gaining some traction. 
The Mississippi River Runs Through U.S. – A Rotary Initiative
 By Jill Pietrusinski
How can you be in a room of hundreds of people and you hear something no one else hears?  Call it “divine intervention” call it Karma, call it Rotary!  While sitting in Montgomery, Alabama at the 2018 Zone Institute meeting, I heard Ambassador Andrew Young mention a coalition of Mayors along the Mississippi River that had formed a network to do a public/private reformation of the communities along the River.  I thought hmmm I bet we have a lot of Rotary clubs along that river.
So, when I got home, I started researching and discovered the network, Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI), had its Headquarters in my back yard of St. Louis, Missouri. I reached out to learn more. What I discovered was a set of Core Values from MRCTI that very closely aligns with Rotary International Values.  Thus, begins the journey…
What I also found is we don’t have good data on tracking clubs over a geographical area.  So off to Google search I go.  And there I found the clubs weren’t as “visible” to the public as I had hoped.  This only fired me up more to see where this can go.
The Opportunity: Communities along the Mississippi River Corridor have a variety of service needs from large to small that can be supported by Rotary Clubs, Districts and Zones. These projects are aligned with the Areas of Focus of Rotary International and many can be eligible for Rotary Global Grants while partnering with other NGOs for financial support. Visible projects by Rotary Clubs and Districts can promote membership growth in North America. 40% of our global food supply, and 60% of the World’s grain supply, travel along the Mississippi River.
In 2019 MRCTI held its annual meeting in Memphis, Tennessee. In pursuit of a vision to GrowRotary in North America by focusing on the largest body of water that affects over 40% of our global food supply and the very heart of our country both socially and economically, we invited Past President Barry Rassin to the table to see if we could inspire our clubs to engage in a collective way.  At the time the Environment was not a formalized area of focus.  Let’s listen to the possibilities VIEW VIDEO (
We’re seeing a lot of momentum with Cause Based Rotary Clubs.  This can be one!  We have had several Zoom meetings trying to attract other non-Rotarians when our local clubs weren’t fully engaged.  The interesting thing is now more existing Rotarians are jumping onto the call so not sure if this will become a club of its own, but it certainly could with the right Champion.
We are working with local Mayors to identify scalable projects that can turn into Global Grants. We share partners with MRCTI such as UNEP, WASH Rotary Action Group, ESRAG and American Cruise Lines. We have been working with Tom Thorfinnson, the RI Director of Strategic Initiatives, to continue the discussion of partnering further with MRCTI on future efforts.
In partnership with the Univ of GA and UNEP grant, a smartphone app was brought to us by MRCTI that logs Marine Debris, The Marine Debris Tracker. We picked one day in multiple locations to see if the app was realistic. It was a simple thing really but demonstrated how a lot of simple things can be a really big thing in the world of Rotary.
This was a proof of concept and now we will grow the project in April of 2021 with 3 key communities, St. Paul/Hastings, Minnesota, St. Louis, Missouri, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana being led by Rotarians in a public community cleanup effort utilizing the app in partnership with community education.  This Project is partially funded by a grant from UNEP and the Univ of Georgia and has the potential to grow into a Global Grant through The Rotary Foundation with the Community Needs Assessment legwork mostly done already!  With the Environmental Area of Focus in July of 2021, we feel this is well aligned. The goal is to identify the debris, in particular plastics, determine how it got there, and most importantly, what can we do about it! WATCH VIDEO HERE (
In Sept of 2021, the American Queen Riverboat Company has approached us about supporting their Community outreach cruise from Louisville to St. Louis. This would consist of 8 stops with a Rotary Coordinated service project at each port to engage their guests and crew with giving back to the communities they dock at. Gail Story is coordinating the Louisville through Paducah ports and I will be working on the Zone 31 side with Cape Girardeau and St Louis. This was the first of two requests with the second one a potential cruise in 2022 focused totally on Rotary.  We envision a “Town Hall” like our World Polio Day with a focus on the River and wouldn’t that be a great opportunity to fill the cruise ship with Rotarians and partners from a Global Grant!  Stay tuned, we’re just getting started.
As Rotary International we are being “watched” to see if this cooperative coalition can grow to a program that can be replicated on a global scale.  Salvador Rico of the WASH Rotary Action Group is leading the International Service opportunities with MRCTI as one of the Great Rivers of the World.  Thank you, Salvador, for all your support in this journey.  After all, we are Rotary International.  Water is life and The Mississippi River Runs through US.