Story By Jo Ann Matthews
Photography By Time 2 Remember

There’s no need to book a flight. The Rotary Club of Shallotte brings Las Vegas to Brunswick County on January 28.

Its seventh annual Las Vegas Night features gambling along with food, fun and friends. The primary reason for the event, however, is to raise money for charities.

The Rotary Club wants people to experience the ambiance of Las Vegas.

“We decorate the hall so it looks like a casino,” says Vince Bacchi, president of Rotary Club of Shallotte and co-chair of the event. “Immediately when people walk in the room, we want them to go ‘Wow!’”

The venue is once again the Brunswick County Association of Realtors Building, 101 Stone Chimney Place, in Supply.

The 30 volunteer dealers receive instructions on how to conduct games of Blackjack, craps, roulette and Texas Hold ’Em. This year the event includes horse racing as well. People will place bets on their choices then watch videos of old horse races.

“We’re not gambling for money,” Bacchi says. He explains that after paying $60 for admission, ticket holders receive $25,000 in “monopoly” chips for use in the casino. Admission includes dinner provided by Coastal Catering & Events in Boiling Spring Lakes. Wine, beer and soft drinks are available at a nominal fee.

The club offers three types of sponsorships. A Diamond sponsor donates $500. A Platinum sponsor donates $300, and a Blue & Gold sponsor donates $100 to $299. A large-screen slide show that plays throughout the night recognizes the sponsors, so people understand who made major contributions to the event.

Nearly everyone who buys a ticket receives a door prize. An oil change, a beauty salon treatment and gift cards from local businesses are among the prizes. As a diversion from gambling, people can investigate and inspect up to 50 silent auction items. Rounds of golf, original art works and gift cards to local restaurants and other local merchants will go to the highest bidders.

“We put the fun into fund-raising,” says Doug Terhune, co-chair of the event and the man who developed the creative twist to Shallotte Rotary’s Las Vegas Night.

“It’s the only casino in the world where we don’t want you to lose,” says Norm Rogers, a Rotarian from Bolivia.

Attendees cash in their monopoly winnings for chances on semi-grand prizes and a grand prize. The three semi-grand prizes are a digital camera, an “extraordinary” toolbox and a laptop computer. The grand prize is a 47-inch flat-screen television with surround sound and Blu-ray Disc system.

In addition, raffle tickets will be available for a week’s stay at a Marriott Timeshare on the strip in Las Vegas with a $1,000 travel voucher. The value of this prize is $5,000. Tickets cost $15 each, three for $30 and 12 for $100. The winner does not have to be present to win the Las Vegas trip.

Las Vegas Night raised $40,000 in 2011. All the proceeds from Las Vegas Night benefit nonprofit organizations and projects. Communities In Schools, Brunswick Family Assistance, Brunswick County Literacy Council, Hope Harbor Home, Waccamaw Boys and Girls Home, New Hope Clinic and the Brunswick County Dictionary Program are among the recipients. The Rotary Club of Shallotte also presents two scholarships each year to local high school students to attend Brunswick Community College.

“We do an enormous amount of charity work,” Bacchi says.

Nancy Boston, service chair for the club and grant chair for Rotary District 7730 in southeastern North Carolina, explains that the club also contributes to international projects. It built a water cistern for a school in El Salvador and provided a hook up to a sewer system there. It contributes to Polio Plus, Rotary International’s goal of eradicating polio, which has been in place since 1986. More than two billion children worldwide have been inoculated, and only four countries in the world still transmit the disease: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Rotary Club originated in Chicago in 1905 when Paul P. Harris, an attorney, wanted to share professional and social interests with other men. The name “Rotary” was chosen because members rotated meetings from one office to another. The club gained popularity, and by 1921 it had organized on six continents. It adopted the name “Rotary International” in 1922 and began serving the needs of the community with the motto “Service Above Self.” It wasn’t until 1989 that women were accepted as members, and today 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 32,000 clubs in 200 countries.

Rotary Club of Shallotte organized in 2002 as an offshoot of South Brunswick Island Rotary Club in Ocean Isle Beach. Other Brunswick County Rotary Clubs are in Leland and Southport. The Shallotte Club has partnered with the Leland and South Brunswick Island clubs to build a playground at the new Brunswick County Hospice facility.

Bacchi, senior loan officer of Union Mortgage Group in Supply, joined the group in 2003 and is serving a second year as president. “I like being able to organize things that give back to the community,” Bacchi says. “A real Rotarian puts community first. Making business contacts is secondary.”

Terhune, president of Carolina Plantations, a real estate firm in Ocean Isle Beach, joined Rotary eight years ago. He served as president twice and is past assistant district governor. He is currently membership director.

Besides the contributions the club makes to charity, what Terhune considers special about Las Vegas Night is that all 34 members participate. “That’s what makes it successful,” he says. “I like the fact that all the members work hard, we’re having fun and we’re raising money for needed charities.”

Las Vegas Night is the club’s one and only fund-raiser. It is always held the weekend between the end of the football playoffs and the Super Bowl. It’s a fun event that people look forward to attending every year.

“People leave with a full belly, a smile on their face and a gift under their arm,” Terhune says.

Bacchi looks forward to being emcee again this year, as he’s been for the past four years. “It’s nice to see that many people happy,” he says.

Rotary Club of Shallotte meets each Thursday for lunch at 12:30 p.m. at Starz Grille in Planet Fun Center, 349 Whiteville Road (Route 130), Shallotte. Visitors are welcome.