By Chris Wyatt, originally posted in the Barrie Examiner:
With the motto “Service Above Self,” the first Rotary Club was formed in 1905 in Evanston Illinois. Today, it is a service organization that has approximately 1.2 million members in 30,000 clubs in 162 countries. The main objective of Rotary is service; in the community, in the workplace and around the world.
The Rotary Club of Barrie was established in 1946 with 21 charter members. Over 65 years, the club has become an integral part of the community, whose 150 members include a cross section of business and professional men and women. The club meets every Thursday at noon at the Southshore Community Centre.
The Rotary Club of Barrie has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through its various fund raising events. The Chicken Barbecue started in 1953 at St. Vincent Park and raised $500. Over the course of time, the event grew and in 1963, the club built a shelter in the park and donated it to the City of Barrie.
The shelter was refurbished in 2001 by the club. The City renamed it ‘The Dooley Greer Pavilion’ in honour of one of the club’s charter members and former Mayor of Barrie.
This event now takes place at Heritage Park during the Kempenfest weekend in August and after 44 years, has evolved into the Rotary Feast. Combined with the Rotary Sports and Leisure Show, this weekend event raises in excess of $75,000 annually.
The Rotary Auction made its debut on radio station CKBB in 1951. The format has now changed to live television on Rogers Cable with Internet bids. Other community fundraisers include the Fun Run/Walk, in which approximately 1,600 participants run or walk the 5-kilometer course around Kempenfelt Bay. The newest fundraiser is the Festival of Trees which, in its six-year history, has become an outside event with the lighting of trees along the waterfront during the Christmas season.
These trees, sponsored by local businesses, provide a spectacular seasonal display that can be enjoyed by all.
The Rotary Club of Barrie raises $175,000 to $200,000 annually with 75% of funds distributed locally. Over the years, the Rotary Club of Barrie has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a wide variety of people and organizations. The club has provided medical services, equipment and supplies to individuals in need. Some of the larger financial commitments to the City of Barrie have included the YMCA, the Allandale Recreation Centre, the Barrie Community Sports Complex, the MacLaren Art Centre, Georgian College and Hospice Simcoe.
The largest contribution to date is a $700,000 donation to the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Simcoe Muskoka Regional Cancer Centre.
Children have always been a priority of Rotary and much support has been directed to programs, both large and small, that are focused on youth.
The club has partnered with dentists to provide dental care and the Simcoe Learning Centre to assist children in need of one-on- one teaching.
Nowhere is the Rotary Club of Barrie’s commitment to the community more visible than along the Barrie waterfront.
Beginning with the fountain at Centennial Beach in 1967, the club participated in the renovation of the South Shore Community Centre, developed and built the “Rotary” islands created to reestablish the natural habitat for plants and fish in Kempenfelt Bay, and the building of the Trans Canada Trail pavilion at the Tiffen Street launch.
The club is also responsible for most of the trees that have been planted along the Lakeshore. Tree planting is an ongoing yearly project and has expanded to other parks and schools in the City.
Approximately 25% of the money raised by the club is dedicated to international service and the strength of Rotary has been demonstrated in worldwide projects.
One of the club’s most well-known projects is the sponsoring of an international exchange student. Other projects have included a dental clinic in Peru, the establishment of a brick-making plant in the Honduras and the creation of a water irrigation system in Ecuador.
In 1985, Rotary International embarked on the Polio Plus project, a worldwide effort involving all Rotary clubs to eliminate polio across the globe.
The Rotary Club of Barrie has spread its enthusiasm for community involvement by sponsoring the Rotary Club of Barrie - Huronia in 1977, which in turn sponsored the Rotary Club of Barrie-Kempenfelt in 2000.
For more information about the Rotary Club of Barrie or to inquire about joining, visit www.barrierotary.com.