A simple walk around the streets of Prince Rupert shows that Rotary is very much alive and active on the North Coast, with signs at McClymont Park and the waterfront, but many remain unaware of what Rotary is and how it operates.
Founded in Chicago in 1905 Rotary International, a non-political and non-denominational organization, is made up of more than 1.2 million Rotarians in more than 32,000 clubs in 170 countries. Rotary is a volunteer organization made up of business leaders and community minded people who put to practice the “Service Above Self” motto in an effort to provide humanitarian service and promote good will and peace in the world.
The work of Rotary
As well as looking at the international level, local Rotary clubs come up with community projects that address issues such as hunger, poverty, literacy, the environment and children at risk.
An example of some of these projects currently offered in Prince Rupert include the backpack program, which provides backpacks and school supplies
to children in need, and the Apple Program, which provides apples to schools around the city to ensure children get a healthy breakfast to start their day off. Rotary also facilitates an exchange program to allow local youth to experience the culture in different parts of the world and to bring a young person to town to experience the North Coast.
Aside from projects, the Rotary Club of Prince Rupert contributes thousands of dollars to groups in the community each year. The local clubs have donated thousands to the Salvation Army, assisted in the building of the Friendship house and donated $10,000 to reroof the building, $20,000 to the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital for an echocardiography machine, $14,000 to the North Pacific Cannery Museum to rebuild the 1949 mess house, and $100,000 to the construction of Rotary Waterfront Park.
But the work of the local clubs goes well beyond the North Coast. Rotary International’s PolioPlus program has contributed more than $620 million U.S. to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries, and local Rotarians have not only contributed but done hands on vaccination. The two clubs, in partnership with other clubs in the province, have also helped to bring water systems to communities in need in Africa.
Rotary is also about fostering a sense of community, hosting events like the Polar Bear Swim and a community Easter Egg Hunt.
Rotary isn’t only about projects and community, as fellowship is an important part of the organization. Rotarians gather once a week to listen to a speaker discuss a topic pertinent to the community. Clubs also hold fellowship events to promote friendship and social enjoyment, which have run the gamut from gala dinners to live auctions to bowling to curling. In fact, an original goal of Rotary was to allow club members to meet periodically and enlarge their circle of business and professional acquaintances.
Building leadership skills is another focus of Rotary, as members often have the chance to take on planning and organizing events and projects and to practice public speaking and communication both in and out of the club meeting atmosphere.
Although membership in Rotary is through an invitation from the club, people who want to give back to their community and the world are encouraged to talk to a Rotarian about the benefits of joining and becoming a member, with local membership lists available on the two clubs’
A proud local history
Rotary has been a part of Prince Rupert for more than 85 years, and the tradition has only grown.
After a 1920 visit from Oscar Olson of the Vancouver Rotary Club, the Prince Rupert Rotary Club held its first meeting on April 14, 1921, with 13 founding members. Its Charter and table gong were presented by John Kearns on July 20, 1921. By 1942 the club’s membership had grown to 50 people. In the early years the club was heavily involved in fundraising for the children’s ward at the hospital and for what is now the Jim Ciccone Civic
With membership increasing, the Hecate Strait Rotary Club got its start in the community 25 years ago this year, and its membership also grew quickly. However, the club had to merge with the Prince Rupert Rotary Club last summer due to declining attendance at the regular weekly
For more information on Rotary, visit the Rotary International website at www.rotary.org.