This is the fourth in a series of features exploring the world of service club organizations. They all have familiar names, but do you know what they really do? The name of each service club organization may evoke a particular memory from your past that describes what you think is their main activity in the community. This series will examine aspects of these groups that may not be as well-known to all of us but are very important to the people they serve. How did it all start? Again, the explanation is not so simple.
February 23, 1905 was the day Chicago attorney Paul P. Harris formed one of the first service organizations the Rotary Club of Chicago. It was set up as “a place where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships.” How the name Rotary was chosen is quite simple. When they got started the group would rotate in which member’s office they would hold the meeting. Thus was born “Rotary.”
Rotary is proud to have three traits that have continued from the organizations beginning.
1) They are truly international with Rotary clubs on 6 continents just 16 years after their founding. Today they work together around the globe connecting in-person and digitally to help solve some of our world’s most challenging problems.
2) They persevere in tough times. Rotary clubs in Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, and Japan had to disband during WWII, but many continued to meet informally, at the risk of their lives, and after the war they worked together to rebuild the clubs in those war-torn countries.
3) Their commitment to service is ongoing. In 1979 they began their fight against Polio with a project in the Philippines to immunize 6 million children from that dreaded disease. By 2012 only three countries remain polio-endemic down from 125 in 1988.
Rotary International focuses their efforts in six areas including: promoting peace, preventing diseases, providing access to clean water and sanitation, enhancing maternal and child health, improving basic education and literacy, and helping communities develop. Their main push has been to “end polio in our lifetimes.”
The Eugene Rotary Club, also known as the Rotary Club of Eugene, saw its birth on January 2. 1923 beginning with 18 charter members and added three additional members at their organizational meeting. Their charter application was filed with Rotary International on January 16,1923. The Eugene Rotary Club received their official charter from Rotary International on March 15,1923. For more than 20 years they were the only Rotary Club in Lane County. With about 300 members it currently is the largest Rotary Club in the Eugene/Springfield area. They have been busy sponsoring other clubs in the area including Springfield, Cottage Grove, Eugene Emerald, Eugene Delta, Southtowne, Eugene Mid-Valley, and Eugene Airport Rotary. The Eugene Rotary Club members are especially proud of the Eugene Rotary Scholarship Program, “a separate non-profit corporation, through which trustees receive and administer funds and other assets in the interest of scholarships to local colleges for worthy high school students.”
There are those who may know very little about the Rotary locally, but they do know them for “The Great Rotary Duck Race.” The “Race” started in 1988 when the incoming presidents of the Eugene/Springfield Rotary Clubs decided to sponsor a community-wide fundraiser that would make a difference in our communities. The idea came from a President Elect Training Seminar (PETS) and was adopted by the clubs as a way to attract attention and gain local support. The Community Substance Abuse Consortium was the beneficiary of the proceeds from the first two Rotary Duck Races. Since then the money raised has been used for intervention and prevention of child abuse in the area.
One of the Eugene Rotary’s newest projects is the “Sk8Eug” Skate Park Project that started four years ago. The Eugene Rotary joined up with the City of Eugene and the Skaters for Eugene Skateparks. The 18,000 sq. ft. skate park facility is located in the area of the Washington-Jefferson Park covered by the I-105 Bridge. Rotary members helped raise between $50,000 and $70,000 for the project. According to the Rotary statement: “We firmly believe that redesigning and renovating the Washington/Jefferson Park into a regional destination attraction for skaters of all ages and abilities will foster civic pride and support community livability. This area of our community currently sees a high frequency of negative activity. This project and the recently completed Public Safety Strategy will provide the positive and consistent user presence to the park necessary to transform the area into a focal point for community recreation, relaxation, and interaction.” Here is a video showing the Rotary presentation concerning the Skate Park.
Groundbreaking for the project took place in August of 2013 beginning the $2.5 million project to build what could be largest covered skate park in the United States. Workers had to fell 40 trees to get the job done, but the trees are being replaced.
It’s official name is WJ Skate Park. It could end up with a sponsor name if the sponsor wants to pay the $250,000 price tag. The project is expected to be completed in May of this year. Here is a video made for the City of Eugene discussing the importance of and need for the WJ Skate Park.
Another cause that is taken up by the Eugene Rotary and Rotary International as a whole is the Rotary Peace Project. The goal is “World Peace” which is something mankind has strived for without much success. The internet has helped this project “grow legs” because it is possible to be in close contact with people all over the world who are also striving to give peace a chance. The Bill Gates Foundation has joined in their efforts to spread the word that world peace is actually possible if everyone works together. Locally they are making plans for a future Oregon Rotary Peace Center for international Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution.
These Rotarians also have a student exchange program and Ambassador Scholarship program which helps college students to become leaders in the community. The Eugene Rotary Club is continually adding new projects to keep up with the needs of our local community.
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