In 1993, Wayne Leckie and Bruce Reichart, who had both been involved in this international organisation elsewhere, started Rotary in Clearwater.
“We began gathering soon after Christmas,” Tim Panko said. As well as Tim, Eileen Sedgwick and Jean Nelson were part of the charter group, inaugurated in June, 1993. Along with Fritz and Ursula Schaer, who joined just a month later, these people have been members for the whole 20 years. The decision was made at that time for it to be a 7 a.m. breakfast meeting, with the Wells Gray Inn providing good food and a convenient location – and this continues.
All have stayed involved because of benefits provided to our own community, ways of helping world-wide, and the camaraderie within this dedicated organisation.
“I joined Rotary because the son of my friend went to Finland on the Student Exchange Program,” said Jean Nelson. “It was such an excellent experience for him that I wanted to see that happen in Clearwater.” And she does! “I wear my pin with pride,” Jean added, “and enjoy conferences and out-of-town meetings with other clubs.”
Eileen Sedgwick commented on Rotary International’s goal of ending polio on this planet – which, with India now being polio-free, is amazingly close to being achieved.
“An iron lung was set up in Safety Mart’s parking lot, and I explained how my aunt, stricken with that dreadful disease, had used a rocker bed during the day while an iron lung kept her breathing at night. Young people, having no knowledge of this treatment which kept patients alive, were startled to see that awkward apparatus.”
Like Leckie and Reichart, Fritz and Ursula Schaer with their Swiss background, had learned about Rotary before moving to Clearwater. As other members of this local group do, they spoke of their satisfaction in helping with community projects like the gazebo at Dr. Helmcken Hospital.
Indeed, the list of local accomplishments is lengthy, beginning with the building of sand volleyball courts at the high school. Chad’s Memorial Park was developed in cooperation with the volunteer Fire Department; Rotary Sports Park was expanded from the initial Skateboard Park with District of Clearwater; muscle and money were provided to improve the boat ramp and beach area of Dutch Lake. Fish habitat was restored at the Fish Hatchery; and, along with many other volunteers, members planted trees on the old Camp 2 site.
All age groups have benefited over those 20 years. Gift baskets are given to seniors at Christmas and, before the transit bus service began, a taxi service used to be funded to help needy people arrive at medical appointments on time. Scholarships are given out to Grade 12 students. A recent literacy project placed 25 electronic tablets each in Clearwater Secondary and Raft River Elementary schools, with funds coming from the local club, School District 73, PAC, Wells Gray Community Forest and Rotary International. The May Day Parade has been run by Rotary for the past 18 years, while the Christmas Tree Light-up is another popular event that happens thanks to efforts of Rotary members.
Of course, money has to be raised for all of these to be possible, and Clearwater Rotary is grateful to all who give and have given donations, and have supported the club by supporting its events. Classy “Dancing for Diamonds” was an elegant event giving real diamonds for prizes, along with Casino night and Oktoberfest getting folks into the “spirit” of things and having fun. A Duck Race featuring numbered plastic ducks and golf tournaments have been popular, while Ice Man Days and Guess When Rotary Richard’s Clock Will Stop are part of winter activities on Dutch Lake. Now in its third year, the Giant Flea Market helps all to “recycle” useful objects. Again working with other volunteers, past and present Rotary members have assisted with community ventures such as Pitch In, cleaning up road-sides, as well as the Hospice Bike Run, Raise-a-Reader Day, and popular canoe Regatta.
When Haiti was devastated by an earthquake and part of Japan was hit by a huge tsunami, Clearwater Rotary connected with the Shelter Box program that has been organised in Britain. Money donated by Rotarians and many others paid for complete kits containing a family-size tent, equipment and drinking water to be sent to the afflicted countries.
With 22 actively involved and enthusiastic members at present, signs are sure that this group will be busy in this community and beyond for 20-plus more years. Speakers are often arranged to keep Rotary members in touch with local happenings. While some folk don’t seem to know what Rotary actually “does”, the club has a good reputation around town.
Many former members still live in Clearwater, actively contributing to the community in many ways. From near and far, it is hoped that lots will come to the Invitational Anniversary dinner this June – which should be a great celebration and gab-fest!