The Rotary Club of Haliburton and the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce are working to bring a new youth-focused group to the County.

The organizations announced the creation of a Rotaract Club Jan. 16. The international model is similar to the Rotary Club and offers people aged 18-30 a chance to network, develop professional skills, socialize and work on community service projects, according to a press release.

Organizing committee member Scott Walling said it is important to have groups like this to help connect youth.

“It’s hard for this age group to connect in such a wide community,” Walling said. “This is helpful for us as well to find that social aspect of the community, that wants to keep us here.”

The chamber previously organized a Young Professionals Network (YPN), which offered monthly social events for young adults. But Rotary has worked with the chamber over the past several months to transition the network into a Rotaract Club, which will operate independently and without chamber involvement.

Melissa Tong, a Rotaract organizer who previously planned events for the YPN, said the group had good momentum at the beginning but started to fizzle out.

“I believe with a (bigger) membership base and community involvement outside of running around social events, I think it will really help stabilize the group,” Tong said.

“The opportunities for members of the YPN will be greatly enhanced under the Rotaract umbrella,” chamber president Andrea Strano said.

Rotaract has a wide infrastructure, with more than 20,000 clubs in 159 countries. Although it is modelled and tied to Rotary, Ted Brandon said the new group can chart its path for its involvement with the Rotary Club of Haliburton, which tends to have older members.

“Rotary will provide support, or as much support as it feels it needs. Some clubs work autonomously, and others work very closely,” Brandon said. “There will be a visioning session where they decide how they want to proceed in terms of the service.”

Brandon said the club will aim to be as accessible to people as possible in terms of time commitment, costs and what will be expected of members. Besides offering professional development and community service, Tong said a group such as this is important to help people’s wellness.

“A lot of people, especially in smaller communities, have a higher rate of depression and a lot of that … is a lack of community, a lack of a sense of purpose, a lack of a sense of belonging,” Tong said. “This is a really good opportunity to kind of help people find their place in Haliburton.”

The Rotaract Club will host a free information night Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Haliburton School of Arts and Design. More information is also available by contacting Brandon at 705-457-7923 or haliburtonrotaract@gmail.com.

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Joseph Quigley is a staff writer with The Highlander. Joseph is always digging hard for news stories and covers all the latest happenings in the County of Haliburton. He believes in the importance of local news, finding more to every story and listening to marginalized voices. When he’s not working on news, Joseph finds himself getting all-too engaged in social media and cheering on his favourite Toronto Maple Leafs.