100 Years – Telling Our Story

Remarks from Bob Newton, chair of the Rotary 100 committee, at the 100 Years of Service Celebration Luncheon.

The February 17, 1917 edition of the Greensboro Daily news reports the first regular meeting of the Rotary Club of Greensboro, the Charter Night event having

First meeting of the Rotary Club of Greensboro in February 1917.

been held a few weeks earlier in late January 1917. At that first regular meeting, several members were slightly tardy, arriving a few minutes after the specified starting time of 1 PM, and were loudly chastised by the Sergeant at Arms. Later President Paul Schenck reminded members that the meeting started at 1 PM sharp and adjourned at 2 PM sharp, and that attendance was expected of every member except in the case of illness or out of town travel. Further, the maximum membership was set at 40, in order to facilitate greater realization of what we now recognize as the first Object of Rotary, i.e. the development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service.

Since that first meeting, the Rotary Club of Greensboro has been continually active in meeting the now four Objects of Rotary – they appear on the back cover of your program and have remained essentially unchanged over the years. Other aspects of Rotary have changed significantly. A limit on the size of our club in 1917 has been completely reversed and now growth in membership is seemingly an ever present priority. The diversity of member occupations maintained by strict adherence to the original classification system of

Bob Newton, Chair of Rotary 100 Task Force, with wife Donna.

members has gradually yielded to the desire for growth.  How could founder Paul Harris, an attorney himself, have envisioned the multiplicity of attorneys along with other professions, as we and other clubs sought to bolster our membership with ever more imaginative classifications. But growth was not only in terms of our own club, but in helping new clubs form.  Crescent, Guilford, High Point, East Greensboro, and Southern Guilford are examples.

Service Above Self
Surely every Rotarian recognizes this fundamental motto and guiding principle, and it is the story of the Rotary Club of Greensboro. Examples abound:

Financial assistance to members during the depression years
Rotary Row at Camp Greystone
Tuberculosis infirmary and home nursing care
Rotary Cottage at the Boys and Girls Home
Eastside Park Community Center
Habitat House in Tarboro
New Bridge Bank Park playground
The Rotary Youth Leadership Program
Group Study Exchange with Finland
Ambassadorial scholars to and from Germany, Austria, and France.
Interact at Grimsley; Rotaract at UNCG
Preserve Planet Earth, and Rotary Park
Hospice in Kirov, Russia and Zubresti, Moldova
Water projects in Africa and Mexico
Medical and dental services in Bangledesh and South America
Humanitarian aid to the people of Haiti
The Literacy Project
Boy Scouts
Teacher Exchanges with France
Exchange students with France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Taiwan
Project Rebuild
Sister Clubs in France and Russia
and the Rotary Club of Greensboro Carousel specifically to celebrate our 100th year.

And finally, a word about money. Much of what we do, or can do, takes little if any money. Other examples of service require some. I mentioned the depression-era role of the Rotary Club of Greensboro as banker. But in 1927, the Rotary Foundation was formed by then RI President Arch Klumph. It’s purpose: Do Good in the World.  The Foundation muddled along until about 1947 when it seems to me three events affected our club and perhaps most clubs. The end of WWII, which may have opened our eyes to the larger world around us; the death of founder Paul Harris and the significant influx of funding to the Foundation in his memory, and the formation of the United Nations, which incidentally involved a significant number of Rotarians serving that extraordinary effort, and in the opinion of many reinforcing the International in Rotary International. I say all this to point out our Club has not been on the bench. We have been in the game, providing something on the order of $1.3 million in contributions to the Annual Fund of the Foundation.  Today half of our giving to the Annual Fund comes back to our district where we collaborate with our colleagues to use that money for District Governor Jon Spillman’s effort to address hunger in our community, our own Rotary Youth Leadership Program, Ambassadorial scholarships, and grants that fund projects in the areas of health, water and sanitation, and literacy just to name a few. Additional support has gone to the Rotary Foundation Permanent Fund. For our local projects as well as for support of local organizations, serving this community as we might ourselves, we routinely raise thirty, forty, or even fifty thousand dollars each year in support of our own Doing Good in our local world. And we must not forget Polio Plus, where we have joined our fellow Rotarians world wide to provide well over $1.0 billion not to mention countless hours of volunteer time by members of this club and others to see polio all but eliminated throughout the world during the last 30 years. We are “this close,” and we will finish the job.

And, we will not stop. We will move on to address Alzheimer’s disease, clean water, improved health, and literacy. We will help our neighbor fix his house, and our veteran cope with raising her family, and the homeless find stability and dignity in life. And so, you see the many opportunities for Service Above Self; opportunities big and small, available to everyone, and perhaps never ending.

And our story continues…