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HISTORY OF ROTARY

Rotary started with the vision of one man — Paul Harris. The Chicago attorney formed the Rotary Club of Chicago on 23 February 1905, so professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships.

Over time, Rotary’s reach and vision gradually extended to humanitarian service. Members have a long track record of addressing challenges in their communities and around the world.

That commitment endures today through an organization that remains truly international. Only 16 years after being founded, Rotary had clubs on six continents. Our members now span the globe, working to solve some of our world’s most challenging problems.

“Whatever Rotary may mean to us,
to the world it will be known by the results it achieves.”

Paul Harris, Rotary Founder

ROTARY CLUB OF EUREKA

Early History – Rotary Club of Eureka was organized by twenty-one men on October 10, 1923 and its formal charter was approved by RI on November 9 of that same year. (CHARTER MEMBERS). An item in “Grindings”, the weekly publication of sponsor club San Francisco, noted that on January 15, 1924 a group of San Francisco Rotarians spent the week-end in Eureka where “Leo Lebenbaum’s beautiful hostelry (Eureka Inn) was the scene of much revelry where hospitality reigned and friendship was supreme.” This event was in celebration of the presentation of the Rotary Club of Eureka’s Charter.

The initial club officers were: Ritchie Woods, President; J.A. Wagner, Vice-President; Warren Innes, Secretary; Hugh Graham, Treasurer; Directors: L. Perske, H. Daly, S.V. Morrison; Constitution and By-laws committee: Hugh Graham, Warren Innes and William Vietor. (CLUB PRESIDENTS)

At that time, Paul Rieger was District Governor and the District was then known as District No. 2.  There were only 95,000 Rotarians in 1,551 clubs in 27 countries of the Rotary world and Guy Gundaker of Philadelphia was President of Rotary International.  Significantly to Rotary Club of Eureka, the official Rotary emblem, (a gear with 24 teeth and an axel key) was adopted in the year of our founding, 1923. 

The Rotary Club of Eureka was instrumental in the formation of other Rotary Clubs in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.  We sponsored Rotary Club of Arcata which was chartered on February 8, 1926, Fortuna’s charter on January 5, 1927, and Crescent City’s charter on November 24, 1953.  In addition, we worked with Fortuna in organizing the Garberville Club, which was chartered on January 11, 1938.  In later years, Rotary Club of Eureka sponsored the Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka on March 13, 1969 as well as helping charter Ferndale, Fort Bragg and Old Town Eureka clubs.

Club activities have been documented by the club’s newsletters since July 1942. The first issue of “The Wheel” was published on August 28, 1942 but was published intermittently.  Subsequent newsletters included “Rotary Wheel Tracts”, then the “Rotary Bulletin” was published on March 22, 1946 and finally the “Eureka Rotary Burl” was published April 5, 1946 and continues today.

Early financial records indicate a substantial concern for community and youth needs including contributions to such items as: an artificial limb, glasses, dental work, shoes, transportation to medical care, Boy Scouts, Sea Scouts, summer camps, Children’s Home Society, Camp Fire girls, aid to the blind, Christmas charity, school band, YMCA, China Famine relief, Tubercular school fund, Fort Humboldt restoration fund, HSC football sweaters, assistance to deaf mutes, Christmas lighting fund, and flood relief for other parts of the country.

ERADICATING POLIO

The Rotary Club of Eureka donated money to help treat local polio patients in the 1920’s and were the leaders in providing vaccines to immunize every child in Humboldt County in 1959-60, which stopped polio in our county.

The Philippine Rotary District began a program to immunize 6 million children in the Philippines in 1979.  The World Health Organization (WHO) became interested because smallpox was officially gone in 1980. 

In 1985 Rotary International (RI) at the Council of Legislation decided that RI would promote a world-wide Rotary effort to immunize the world’s children to end polio. The polio eradication program began in 1987 and was gradually endorsed by districts and clubs.  Today, polio remains endemic in only two countries — down from 125 in 1988 and the efforts continue.

AVENUES OF SERVICE

Rotary’s commitment to Service above Self is channeled through Five Avenues of Service:  Club Service, Vocational Service, Community Service, International Service and Youth Service. Since our founding in 1923 the Rotary Club of Eureka has remained active and engaged…

  1. Club Service focuses on making clubs strong. A thriving club is anchored by strong relationships and an active membership development plan. Rotary Club of Eureka’s fellowship includes hospitality events throughout the year as well as weekly meetings.
  1. Vocational Service calls on every Rotarian to work with integrity and contribute their expertise to the problems and needs of society. Rotarians in our club utilize a variety of skill sets from financial, organizational and more, to do good in our community and world.  Whatever your talent or passion there is a way to use it to benefit others.
  1. Community Service encourages every Rotarian to find ways to improve the quality of life for people in their communities and to serve the public interest. From donations of time to clean up our community with Done in a Day projects to packing Backpacks for Kids with food for local children, Rotary Club of Eureka contributes to our community in many ways. Our scholarship programs help local youth and our small grants and Sign Smith grant have provided funds to assist many local needs. We provided the funds to build the Humboldt Room at the Humboldt County Library, funds to support the new cardiac unit at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in 1998 and many more important community needs.
  1. International Service exemplifies our global reach in promoting peace and understanding. We support this service avenue by sponsoring or volunteering on international projects, seeking partners abroad, and more. Rotary Club of Eureka’s participation globally includes funds to pay for clean water projects, medical equipment being sent to Siberia after the end of communism, money for a bloodmobile in Nigeria, an ambulance for a town in Mexico, funds to help build a library and computer center in Nepal and many more.
  1. Youth Service recognizes the importance of empowering youth and young professionals through leadership development programs. The Rotary Club of Eureka is very involved with youth service through Interact, Youth Exchange and Rotaract.
    • Interact – Interact clubs bring together young people ages 12-18 to develop leadership skills while discovering the power of Service Above Self. The Rotary Club of Eureka, under the leadership of President Ted Loring, chartered the Interact Club at Eureka High School in 1969-70. Interact clubs organize at least two projects every year, one that helps their school or community and one that promotes international understanding. Rotary club sponsors mentor and guide Interactors as they carry out projects and develop leadership skills. The Eureka High School Interact club remains active today.
    • Youth Exchange – Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) builds peace one young person at a time. Students learn a new language, discover another culture, and truly become global citizens. Exchanges for students ages 15-19 are sponsored by Rotary clubs in more than 100 countries. Long-term exchanges last a full academic year, and students attend local schools and live with multiple host families. Short-term exchanges last from several days to three months and are often structured as camps, tours, or homestays that take place when school is not in session.

The history of RYE began in the early 1940’s when Rotary International (RI) encouraged clubs to have more engagement with our foreign counterparts.  RI hoped that such communication and fellowship would further its object of international understanding, goodwill and peace and would help clubs in the sphere of International Service.  Initially no specific programs were specified.  It was left up to the clubs to chart their own course. Rotary Club of Eureka’s first exchange student was in 1948, inbound from England. That was just the beginning of many youth who have stayed with Eureka Rotarians, building relationships that have lasted throughout the years. 

Rotary Club of Eureka’s efforts with international students began when RI started the Ambassadorial College aged student program in 1949 after the death of Paul Harris.  Later students at Berkeley came to Eureka for visits. They were provided bus tickets to visit Humboldt County for three to seven days and attended club meetings, stayed at the homes of Rotarians and were usually driven back to the Bay Area at the end of their visit. 

Rotary Club of Eureka’s first outbound student was in 1959, when Bill Crichton visited Mexico for a few weeks. During this same year, a student from Eureka, Sam Kunkle, was selected to travel to Kassel Germany where he lived for a year. These two students began Eureka’s outbound program of students traveling throughout the world which continues today.

In 1977 RYE supplanted the Ambassadorial College with Rotary Youth Exchange, which RI monitors, but is run at the district level administratively with clubs doing the actual work.  Rotary Club of Eureka’s first RYE was in 1979. 

Rotaract – Rotaract clubs bring together people ages 18 and older to exchange ideas with leaders in the community, develop leadership and professional skills, and have fun through service. Rotaract members decide how to organize and run their clubs, manage their own funds, and plan and carry out activities and service projects. The Rotary Club of Eureka sponsored Lost Coast Rotaract which was chartered in 2009.  In 2021 Rotaract clubs were allowed to function as equals to Rotary Clubs, with no age limits and full access to Foundation Funds.  They no longer need a Rotary Club to act as a sponsor, other Rotaract clubs can now sponsor a new Rotaract club.