Rotary begins 2nd Century locally and around the world

Posted: Tuesday, March 01, 2005


  Local Rotarians participate in one of a many community service projecst.

Local Rotarians participate in one of a many community service projecst.

What started with Paul Harris and a small group of businessmen one hundred years ago has now officially begun its second century. It's known around the world today as Rotary International, but known better by local Rotarians as fun. Some 25 years ago Fred Chambers, a retired American Airline pilot and long time Rotarian, decided to retire in Soldotna. There were no Rotary clubs on the Kenai Peninsula, so Chambers had to fly to Anchorage to attend meetings. The downtown Anchorage Rotary Club challenged Chambers to start a club in Kenai/Soldotna and with the help of 20 some local businessmen the first Rotary club on the Peninsula was chartered in the spring of 1979 with Chambers as the Club's first president. The philanthropic concept of service above self and weekly luncheon meetings to keep abreast of community happenings became so popular that within a few years the original Kenai/Soldotna Club that met in Soldotna was able to split and sponsor another Rotary Club in Kenai. As both clubs continued to grow, the Soldotna Rotary Club sponsored a Homer club and a few years later a Seward Rotary club. Today there are four Rotary clubs on the Kenai Peninsula with over 200 members.

A few years ago the Soldotna Rotary Club modified there scholarship criteria to focus on community service, "Rotary is all about service above self in the local community and around world. If the student has been accepted to a school of higher education they obviously have met their grade point requirements for acceptance, but we want to help students that have practiced community service during their high school years, so that's our Club's criteria for the five $1,000 scholarships that we will be awarding this year with the proceeds from our Rotary Rose sale," said Soldotna Rotary president Barbra Elson.

With the fall of the Iron Curtain and the demise of the Soviet Union the Soldotna Rotary Club was the first to reach out to the new republic of Russia with teacher and student exchanges and through Rotary International worked to sponsor the first Rotary Club in Magadan, Russia fifteen years ago.

Today there are 35 Russian Rotary clubs in Rotary District 5010 which includes Alaska and Yukon Territory, Canada. For the first time in Rotary's 100 year history, a Russian Rotary District Governor, Vladimir Donskoy, a University professor in Vladivostok, was elected to serve the largest geographical area in all of Rotary International. "The theme of the centennial year is Celebrate Rotary, and the best way to honor Rotary's past, present and future is through effective service and strengthening our fellowship. We will Celebrate Rotary by strengthening our international bonds, including those within our huge international district. Canadians, Russians and Americans are definitely becoming closer and take much interest in what is going on in our respective countries. It is evident if you visit our district web site PDG Steve Yoshida and his committee have done a lot to reach out and establish neighborly relationships with Thailand, Japan, Russia, and Mexico through friendship exchanges and health fairs," Donskoy wrote in his newsletter.

In Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski issued an official proclamation congratulating Rotarians for their global efforts to eradicate polio from our planet, and the Alaska State Legislature passed a joint resolution proclaiming 2005 Rotary International Year. In his centennial address District Governor Donskoy concluded that in the next century of Rotary, the best and the most fun in service above self is yet to come.

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