After serving as a member for 12 years, Bill Peeper will be made president of the Orlando Rotary Club on Aug. 1. It’s not the first time he’s been president of an organization, though. Peeper’s last stint was a 20-year career as the president of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). He, then, joined Orlando Rotary in 2007, the same year he retired from the CVB.
Peeper said the transition from his career on the tourism board naturally brought him to the rotary club.
“At the CVB, we were really a community-service organization focused on expanding economic development in a very niche market,” Peeper said. “When I retired, a good friend invited me to join rotary, and it felt like a really great place to continue the philosophy of service. [The rotary club] gave me an opportunity to give back to the community that has been so good to me while I was working all those years.”
As a member of the rotary club, Peeper’s proudest accomplishment came last year when he and his fellow members brought back an old Orlando tradition – the Christmas parade. Within the span of only four months, Peeper headed the organization of parade activities. This included organizing an entire fleet of parade floats, pedestrians and service vehicles in what will now be an annual tradition for Downtown Orlando.
The upcoming parade on Dec. 14 will benefit the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program that collects and distributes toys for underprivileged children in the greater Florida area.
“It was the vision of our president at the time, Pat Phillips, to renew a tradition that had been gone from Downtown Orlando for so long,” Peeper said. “The effort put together by our members demonstrates what rotary really is all about: creating a service and doing a service in the community, for the community, as a team. That’s really what we did.”
Peeper jokes that it’s amazing that he and his fellow members are still friends after the ensued chaos of planning a parade in four months. Ultimately, he said the experience has made them closer and validated the impact a team of people can have on the community.
Along with providing services for the public, the rotary club offers services for its members as well. A free educational speaking program taught by business professionals from all over the United States is offered to members along with the opportunity to network with some of Orlando’s top business associates.
In assuming his new role as president, Peeper will focus on expanding the club’s partnerships with non-profit organizations of Orlando. A Gift For Teaching, a non-profit dedicated to providing books for children, partnered with the rotary club by sponsoring the Greater Orlando Swan Boat Race. Peeper hopes to increase the amount of fundraiser events and partnerships for the club.
“We’ve always had the attitude of service. Every organization goes through philosophical and social changes. There were times when we know [we] could have done more,” Peeper said. “Now there is a resurgence in the desire to be active and more service-oriented in the community, and that’s really been an exciting change. We have members in their late 70s and members in their early 30s — it’s a really interesting age range of people.”
With the number of young adults becoming more interested in giving back to the community, Peeper is more than thrilled when newcomers show up to Thursday meetings.
One aspect of the rotary club Peeper has always loved is the international ties that members have. A member can walk into any rotary club in the world and be welcomed as if he or she was one of their own — the rotary club of Orlando is no different, Peeper said.
“What these new members will find is a group of exceptional men and women who I think are among the friendliest people around,” he said. ”We would love to have people come and visit and see what we are all about.”
If you would like to learn more, visit orlandorotary.org/, or you can attend weekly meetings at the Sorosis House at 501 E. Livingston St. on Thursdays at 11:45 a.m.