The Rice Lake Rotary Club is observing its 90th year of making the city and world a better place. The club formed in 1923. It organized in October and was admitted into membership in November with 22 charter members. Its misplaced charter once hung on the wall of the King Edward Inn, where the club formerly met. Charter officers were John Jacobson, president; Laurence Coe, vice president; Warren D. Leary, secretary; and Henry Parker, treasurer. Sergeant at arms was Maurice Manson. Rice Lake Rotary Club 1544 means it was the 1,544th club formed. There are now 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs worldwide. The basis of membership, one active member from each business or profession, was a cornerstone of the club. Its motto has always been Service Above Self-He Profits Most Who Serves Best. From its start to the present, members recite a four-way test of things they think, say or do at every meeting. The test asks "Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? A report in the Oct. 24, 1923 Chronotype states: "Through the formation on the new club, with its unique features of fellowship and conduct of business, this city becomes part of a world-encircling body of men dedicated to the spirit of service encompassing more than a thousand communities in 25 countries." A Dec. 12, 1923 Chronotype reported on the club's Charter Night. "Headed by a Superior delegation of 25 Rotarians and ably assisted by five from Menomonie and one each from Ashland and Ironwood, the local Rotary Club No. 1544 celebrated charter night with a dinner at the Elks Club Friday night in a manner at once fitting and impressive."
Founder honored The first Rotary Club was formed in 1905 in Chicago by a lawyer named Paul Harris. His name is still known to this day because of an honor that the club gives to deserving members. The Paul Harris Fellow Award honors members who have donated $1,000 or more to Rotary causes like PolioPlus or the Rotary International Foundation or those who have had that amount contributed in their name. Each Paul Harris Fellow receives a commemorative certificate and a pin. Donors who are already Paul Harris Fellows become Multiple Paul Harris Fellows with each additional contribution of $1,000. Harris named the service club Rotary because it originally met in rotation at members' homes. The second Rotary Club formed in San Francisco in 1908. Other clubs followed on the Pacific Coast and then spread to the East and South. By 1910, when the first convention was held in Chicago, 16 clubs had formed. Rotary expanded from a national to an international organization in 1912. The earliest international clubs formed in Winnipeg, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland, and received charters from the International Association of Rotary Clubs, later shortened to Rotary International.
Rotary annes Martha Trader is recognized as the founder of the local Rotary Annes, open to spouses of Rotary Club members. She belonged to a Rotary Ann group in Chicago and after moving to Rice Lake founded a local group in 1952. The purpose of the Rotary Annes was "to develop friendship among its members, to extend Rotary service in whatever opportunities are presented proper to a woman's sphere, and to further charitable and education work in the community." "Since its inception the Rotary Annes faithfully and energetically carried out their avowed purpose," it was reported in the club's 75th anniversary booklet. It continued, "For many years they have prepared and supplied complete layettes for all the needs of mothers aided by the City Welfare Department. Other projects included sending a child to summer camp for handicapped children, providing seasonal parties for the special education rooms in the city schools and providing funds for Christmas activities at the Barron County Day Development Care Center." Membership in Rotary Annes was voluntary and meetings were generally informal although they did have a chairman and a secretary-treasurer. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Rotary clubs may not exclude women from membership on the basis of gender. In 1989, Rotary International eliminated from its constitution that membership in Rotary clubs be limited to men. Just a year later, 20,200 women had joined the membership and the number has continued to rise.
Sponsor of clubs Rice Lake Rotary Club president Aaron Marsh is a fourth generation member with his father, grandfather and great-grandfather in the membership rolls. Many in the club are two- or three-generation members. Other current officers are Gordy Shay, past president; Paul Chase, president elect; Rob Buehler, secretary; Anita Soley, treasurer. Bun Hanson, executive secretary; Travis Karpowicz, executive treasurer; and Mary Schnacky, board member. While the Superior Rotary Club gets credit for the Rice Lake Rotary Club's start, the Rice Lake Rotary has, in turn, helped to start four other Rotary Clubs. The local Rotary was the sponsor for the new Grantsburg Rotary Club in 1940. The bell used to start its meetings is the same bell given to the Grantsburg club by the Rice Lake club 50 years ago. Rice Lake Rotary also sponsored a Hayward Rotary Club in 1983, the Barron County Sunrise Rotary Club in 1996 and the Amery Rotary Club in more recent years.
Fundraisers Like other service clubs, the Rice Lake Rotary Club raises funds and contributes to local and worldwide causes. Its two biggest fundraisers are the Duck Chase during Aquafest in June and Rose Day in October. The sale of Duck Chase tickets raised $12,000 its first year and now averages between $15,000-$18,000 each year. One year when it rained during the Aquafest parade, which is when many last-minute sales are made, the Duck Chase raised just $8,000. The ducks were dumped over the Main Street bridge for the first 2 years , but after some ducks got lost and the river rose too high, the Duck Chase was moved to the lake with hunting dogs used to retrieve them. Dan Genereau suggested using the dogs and it has been a hit with participants and spectators alike ever since. The first year the club gave away a car as the grand prize but in years since have given a cash award instead. This year, the lucky one whose duck is retrieved first gets to pick from 50 bags, one of which has a $20,000 prize, made possible by an insurance policy sponsored by MarketPlace Foods. The other 49 bags all have $10,000. There is not a chance to win $30,000-the grand prize winner will win either $20,000 or $10,000. Duck Chase tickets sell for $5 and are being sold now until the time of the event by all Rotary members. Member Jan Fedie is credited with the idea of selling roses, a fall fundraiser that normally nets $10,000. The club gets the roses wholesale and sets the goal of selling 1,500 dozen. Members divide up by territory and deliver the roses far and wide-Barron, Birchwood, Spooner, Cameron, Chetek and points in-between. Members particularly enjoy delivering door-to-door and return to the club with stories of how their rose deliveries made the day of many recipients.
Projects The Rotary Club's community service projects aim to address needs in its local community as well as worldwide. A majority of the Rotary Club's funds are used for local projects. In the 1950s, the club purchased seats for the Rice Lake High School auditorium. They are still in use but in need of replacement. In more recent years, the club invested in the initial 1 1/4 miles of the Cedarside Trail and built pavilions at Clanton Park and the Moon Lake soccer complex/skateboard park. An upcoming project is to build a playground area at the soccer complex where younger siblings of soccer players can play. The club is hoping a collaborating grant from Rotary International will match, and thereby double, its fundraising efforts. As a way to improve the environment, the club gets the credit or blame for the reintroduction of native plants as shown on the boulevards on the north end of Main Street and in use along the river at Shudlick Park. There has been controversy over the native plants, which are not intended for beautification but to help prevent water pollution of the lake. "The intent is good," said member Warren Dorrance, who said it is a long-term project and patience is needed. "The plants should get prettier." The club also contributes to the less fortunate locally and internationally. Locally, it donates to the Rice Lake Area Free Clinic and Benjamin's House homeless shelter. Internationally, it twice sponsored the Feed My Starving Children food packaging event in Rice Lake. That involved overseeing a communitywide effort to raise funds and pack food. Other local causes the club supports include Operation Santa, We Share food pantry, Habitat for Humanity, Roux Park basketball court, municipal signage, Knapp Stout Park gazebo, Music in the Park, Red Cedar Symphony Orchestra, Fast for Hope, Girl and Boy Scouts, Kinship, Camp Enterprise and more. Another ongoing international effort supported by all Rotary Clubs is PolioPlus-a massive humanitarian effort to immunize children of the world against poliomyelitis. The plus in PolioPlus is an effort to immunize against five other diseases in addition polio. Just three countries are left to reach in Rotary's effort to eradicate polio. They are Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, according to Marsh. "Happy bucks" or funds that are collected from fines are given to the PolioPlus cause. Dollar fines are given if members are caught promoting their businesses at club meetings.
Education The Rice Lake Rotary Club recognizes seniors who excel in academics and extracurricular activities by selecting Youth Rotars and honoring them at club meetings throughout the school year. All students selected as Youth Rotars for an upcoming school year and their parents are treated to a breakfast in September, where they are congratulated and briefed on what to expect when attending a Rotary Club meeting as guests. All Youth Rotars have the opportunity to write an essay on a given topic for a chance to win one of three $1,000 scholarships. Topics vary from year to year. This year's essay winners are RLHS seniors Ellie King, Stacy Nielson and Allison Solum. The club also promotes education by giving one scholarship each to a WITC-Rice Lake and UW-Barron County student and this year contributed three scholarships totaling $2,250 to the Rice Lake Area Scholarship Foundation. In the years past, the club sponsored an honors banquet for those ranked in the top 50 of classes graduating from RLHS. In recent years, the club has focused funds at the elementary level, giving a paperback dictionary to each third-grader in Rice Lake public and parochial schools and Cameron Elementary School. The club sees the dictionary project as an opportunity to help youths expand their vocabulary and improve their reading and writing skills.
Exchanges Adult and youth exchanges have long been a part of the Rotary Club's mission including the Rotary Youth Exchange, Group Study Exchange and Rotary Friendship Exchange. RYE: For over 75 years, students and host families have broadened their horizons through Rotary Youth Exchange. More than 80 countries and over 8,000 students each year participate in the program. Club member Cyndi Thurston said about eight to 10 local youths have gone on yearlong exchanges in the last 10 years.Daniel Leal is currently in Columbia, and Taylor Martinson is in South Africa. Ginger Pinkerton is preparing to go on an exchange to Peru. Candidates selected must successfully go through interviews at both the local and district levels. The RYE newsletter, a bimonthly, eNewsletter, provides information and updates on Youth Exchange events and resources. GSE: Since 1965, the Group Study Exchange program has provided inspiring vocational, educational and cultural experiences for more than 70,000 men and women. Rotary Foundation updated its mission in 2008 to focus on six areas-maternal and child health, water and sanitation, disease prevention and treatment, basic education and literacy, economic and community development, and peace and conflict prevention/resolution. GSEs can be formed based on an area of focus, a single vocation, cultural, neighboring country, non-Rotary country or humanitarian. While the focus may differ, the purpose of all GSEs is to promote international understanding and goodwill through person-to-person contact. Most exchanges are 4-6 weeks during which team members share personal knowledge of their own country and experience the customs, vocations and lifestyles of another. Rotary member Burnell Hanson was a team leader to Sweden, with then nonmembers Geoff Bohn and Joan Gerland on his team. Mark Berger was on a team that went to England, and Marlene Gargulak has been on several group study exchanges. RFE: The Rotary Friendship Exchange is a program that advances international understanding and peace through personal contact across borders while developing interclub relationships that lead to fellowship and service projects. Participants experience cultures and build friendships by staying in the homes of Rotary Club members in another country. Only Rotarians and their immediate families are eligible for this exchange. Jim and Marlene Gargulak are currently on a 2-week Friendship Exchange in British Columbia. For more information on all the ways Rotarians are making a difference near and far, visit its website, "www.rotary.org."