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story.lead_photo.caption Dr. Sam Wright, owner of Wright Dental in Bryant, is the new president for the Rotary Club of Bryant. He said he joined the organization almost four years ago because he wanted to become more involved with the community in Saline County. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

Dr. Sam Wright did not volunteer for his new position with the Rotary Club of Bryant.

“However, it has been a blessing,” Wright said. “It has been wonderful. You really do rise to the occasion, and in your effort to rise to the occasion, I think you become a better person.”

Wright was recently named the new president of the club and will serve a one-year term. He has been a member for almost four years, having joined in August 2014.

“Those first few meetings, he was quiet, observing the room, watching the interaction and seeing what we were about,” said Dr. Adam Carson, the current program director for the club. “But it all quickly changed. He got involved. He was eager, and he didn’t like the status quo.

“Sam is always interested in looking at things from a different point of view and giving us a different perspective.”

Carson said Wright is “kind of a newbie, and because of that, he brings fresh ideas.”

“He gets past the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ idea, and he looks for different ways to do things,” Carson said. “Sam will be good for the club and Saline County.”

Wright, who has owned Wright Dental in Bryant for seven years, is originally from North Little Rock, having graduated in 2001. He graduated from Florida State University in 2005 and went to dental school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He worked for Healthy Connections, a nonprofit in Mena, for two years.

He said joining the Rotary Club was an easy decision.

“I didn’t realize that when I first went,” said Wright, who lives in Little Rock. “I just went there for the lunch and to see what it was all about, but it is a group of business leaders who get together and help people in need. It was exciting and also helped me connect to this community.

“I wanted to be a part of the Bryant community more, and Saline County in general.”

Jason Schnepf, a member of the Rotary Club and an accountant in Bryant, has known Wright for four years. Schnepf said Wright is eager to do what is best for the community.

“He’s pretty assertive and knows what he wants to do,” Schnepf said. “Whenever he has a goal in mind, he is going to pursue it until it is realized.

“He is very determined.”

Some of Wright’s duties as president are to run the weekly meetings and to make sure all of the club’s fundraisers are running smoothly. He will represent the club to the district and make sure the Bryant club has a voice at those meetings.

“He is not afraid of getting dirty and doing the work,” Schnepf said. “I saw him outside working in the yard of his office. He takes ownership and pride in his business.

“Just because it is yardwork, that is not going to deter him from doing it. He’s willing to get his hands dirty and help, just like the rest of us.”

Wright said that since the 1980s, the goal of the International Rotary Club has been to eradicate polio. He said the number of confirmed cases is down to fewer than 50, but those last 50 are the hardest.

“The places where the vaccines need to go are in war zones, to where they don’t have Rotarians or anybody else there,” Wright said. “Polio can persist in those places.”

He said his focus for the city of Bryant is to continue to put effort and funds into the Kids Closet — which gives area children new clothing, shoes, coats and necessary items. Wright and other members of the club recently installed shelves in the closet.

“Last year, we clothed 500 children,” Wright said. “When they come in here, they pick out what they need, including several shirts, shorts, one pair of shoes, a coat — basically their outfits for the week.”

Emil Woerner, the preacher at Friends in Christ Lutheran Church in Bryant, is one of the main coordinators for the Kids Closet.

“[Sam Wright] is a very compassionate person, and I saw right away that he has a big heart for people and likes to put that compassion into action,” Woerner said. “[Sam] likes the enthusiasm of Rotary and the energy that we have, and he immediately wanted to get involved.”

Woerner said Wright is an easy person to talk to and is very dedicated to his family and will “do whatever he can to help his family and friends or anybody who is in need.”

“I think he will make for a good president because of his willingness to help, and his energy and enthusiasm,” Woerner said. “He will promote the club, be energetic and have a positive spirit at all of our weekly meetings.

“He is someone who has a good vision.”

Earlier this summer, the Rotary Club of Bryant raised $27,000 through its second annual Rubber Ducky Derby at Mills Park. Wright said $5,000 went to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bryant, and another $5,000 was donated to the Imagination Library of Saline County. The remaining funds were donated to the Kids Closet.

“We tried to put all that money back into the community,” Wright said. “It was a real big success, and we hope to have even more success going forward.”

He said a portion of that money will be used to construct an additional building that will be twice the size of the current closet.

“Whatever we use that space for, it will be needed, because it just seems that we see more and more children every year,” Wright said. “We need to be able to serve that need.”

The Rotary Club of Bryant meets from noon to 1 p.m. every Thursday at Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta in Bryant. There are currently 31 members, and the cost for membership is $720 per year, paid semiannually.

Wright said the club is always open to adding new members and will make room for anyone, but the club only wants people who are truly interested in participating in Rotary’s endeavors.

“We aren’t in it to benefit from it,” Schnepf said. “We aren’t getting anything out of Rotary except for the opportunity to help our community.

“That is something we take pride in. We want to serve the community, and we don’t want anybody to get left behind.”

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.

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