Windows in the Rotary Building are lit up to spell “End Polio.” Photo courtesy of Rotary International

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Rotary International World Headquarters in Evanston has something in common with Italy’s Trevi Fountain, India’s Charminar monument and the New York Stock Exchange.

 For the last week, marking the humanitarian service organization’s 106th anniversary, the headquarters has been among 20 iconic buildings and landmarks on five continents bearing Rotary’s pledge to eradicate polio worldwide. Most were illuminated with the words “End Polio Now.”

In Evanston, the upper-floor west windows of Rotary headquarters at 1560 Sherman Ave. spelled out “End Polio.” Buildings in Pakistan, Japan, Lebanon and The Netherlands also carried the message.

Rotary began in Chicago in 1905 and has been based in Evanston since 1954. Evanston is home to two Rotary clubs: the Rotary Club of Evanston, founded in 1920, and the Rotary Club of Evanston Lighthouse, founded in 1985. Both provide grants and hands-on volunteer opportunities to help people in communities locally and internationally.

Polio eradication has been Rotary’s top priority for more than two decades. Rotary is a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.

Rotary club members worldwide have contributed more than $1 billion and countless volunteer hours to the polio eradication effort. Recently, they pledged to
raise an additional $200 million to match $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. All of the resulting $555 million will be
spent in support of eradication activities. The incidence of polio infection has plunged from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 1,000 cases in 2010. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 pediatric deaths.