The Rotary Club of Paonia celebrated its 90th anniversary at its Dec. 20 luncheon meeting. Invited to the event were alumni of the club.
Barb Heck gave a roll call of deceased members of Paonia Rotary from 1922 to 2012. Included in the roll call were 50 who had served as club presidents.
President Norm Lewark thanked those who contributed to making the celebration special. He then asked various members to share about some of the community service projects of the club.
The club supports the North Fork Children's Party which was held on Dec. 8. Pam Bliss said 182 kids received gift bags or gift certificates depending on their age. Santa met the children and there were numerous fun activities. It went off without a hitch, Bliss said, because Rotarian Marsha Grant customized every bag for every single child. "It was the best one ever," Bliss said.
Bliss and her husband Ed head up the Jamaica Outreach. Their outreach, with the assistance of Paonia Rotarians, provides a free breakfast every morning to children at the school and parish of St. Mary's in Jamaica. "The children are eating a big breakfast every morning, and their test scores are going up, up, up," Bliss said. Their literacy and numeracy are much higher. Prior to the breakfast program, the children's test scores were at 30 percent. In the last two years with the breakfast program, their test scores have climbed to between 55 and 60 percent.
Lewark designed a gazebo for the Paonia Library. Rotarians funded and built the gazebo which is nearly completed.
Barb Heck and her husband Mike visit other Rotary clubs as they travel. The couple learned that Cambodia doesn't have any young people in Rotary due to the cost. Rotary dues in Cambodia are $100 annually. The Paonia Rotary Club pays $75 a year to sponsor a young Rotarian and the member pays $25 a year. The young woman the club supports runs an orphanage.
Ulli Lange headed up the foreign exchange student program that Rotary sponsors. This year the club sponsored a student from Germany. The program encourages young people to become involved in Rotary.
Jackie Parks told how the Paonia Rotary Club does two highway clean-ups each year, delivers dictionaries to every third grader in the North Fork Valley and rings the bell for the Salvation Army in December at Don's Market.
Peggy Szvetecz noted that the club had a gala party at Pam and Joe Cocker's home in June raising a lot of money for scholarships.
Lewark has been on the scholarship committee for the last two years. "It's been very rewarding," he said. "I know sometimes it's easy to imagine the younger generation is going down the tubes and things are grim in the world and all that. But when you get a chance to sit with the high school kids as they get ready to venture out to their colleges and their careers and you see the commitment they have put into their efforts, you just can't help but feel we're really on a great path. There are great kids in this valley. Our schools are doing amazing things. And they will make us proud."
Kate Zachman added, "When I started Rotary about 13 years ago, we were giving $500 a year for scholarships . . . We now give $2,000 a year per student."
Eight graduates received scholarships in 2012. "We determine the number of scholarships based on our reserves and how many students there are in the high schools. We are limited by our bylaws on how many we can give out," Lewark said.
Russell Fletcher has been in the pastorate for 50 years. During that time he has been a member of either the Lions Club or Rotary. He was a Lion three times and a Rotarian five times. "It's been a wonderful, wonderful ride," Fletcher said. He can remember the name of each club where he was a member.
Fletcher asked the Rotarians three questions:
Who invited you to come to a Rotary meeting?
Whom have you invited?
Who could you invite?
"We have a great club," Fletcher said.
Fletcher is very proud to be among the club's Paul Harris Fellows. He has his framed certificate decorating the wall of his study at the Paonia Community United Methodist Church.
He noted service organizations are interested in promoting education. Paonia Rotary does that with their dictionary program and their scholarships.
"It's wonderful to be a member of Paonia Rotary Club. It's wonderful to be a member of Rotary International and it's wonderful to practice with our lives service above self. One profits most who serves best," Fletcher said.
He concluded, "If you were to ask me if I wasn't a Rotarian, what would I be, I would tell you I would be ashamed."
The 90th anniversary celebration ended with a drawing for gifts, many of which were historical items from the local museum.
A couple of gifts were presented to people who could answer a question about the club. The first Rotary meeting in Paonia was held at the Opera House, which burned down in the 1980s. Don Foster has been a member of the Paonia Rotary Club the longest. Bob Lario has the second longest membership.blog comments powered by Disqus