Local clubs are the “heartbeat” of Rotary International, but need training to grow stronger and more effectively serve their communities. That’s the message Capital Rotarians heard Nov. 20 from guest speaker Tom Ledbetter (shown with Capital member Neda Beal), head of District 7770’s Rotary Leadership Institute programs. The institute is a learning experience consisting of separate sessions in three parts: (1) exploring Rotary’s roots, engaging members and creating service projects; (2) strategic planning, team building and attracting members; and (3) public relations, effective leadership strategies and club communications. Developing leaders is key for service clubs to get and retain younger members. Ledbetter said District 7770’s Rotarians average 58 years old. “Aging out” impacts a club’s ability to conduct events and projects that advance the goal of “service above self.” Noting that “it’s not your father’s Rotary anymore,” Ledbetter said persons ages 25-45 must be engaged in worthwhile activities before they’re willing to make a commitment. He believes Leadership Institute training would benefit every new Rotarian in his or her first two years of membership. Ledbetter is a charter member and past president of the West Metro-West Columbia club and is associate vice provost with the Center for Entrepreneurship and Educational Support at Midlands Technical College.