2011-03-03 / Front Page

All are invited to help Rotary Club celebrate 70th anniversary

By Tim Riel

To get a sense of how long the Jamestown Rotary Club has been on the island, when the organization held its first meeting, the old Jamestown Bridge wasn’t even a year old.

Now, 70 years later, the club will commemorate its anniversary with a celebration tomorrow – Friday, March 4 – at the Portuguese American Citizens Club, beginning at 5 p.m. All Jamestowners are invited to help celebrate seven decades of “service above self.”

“The Rotary Club is about giving back to the community,” President Brenda Calkins said. “There are leaders in business and other professions that are really civic minded and realize that the best way to connect to and to honor the community is to give back it.”

Calkins has been a member of the Jamestown Rotary Club since February 2003. She has been president of the organization since July 1, 2010 and her term ends on June 30. According to Calkins, a new president is chosen each year, except on two occasions, when a two-year term was agreed upon.

The first Rotary president was Fred Clarke Sr. in 1941. Since then, the club has sponsored all types of projects. “We are just a good group of people and we identify the needs of the community, regions or even internationally,” Calkins said.

Community projects that the club has been involved with include the scoreboard at the Lawn Avenue baseball field, chairs for the music rooms at the Jamestown schools, essay contests and the Thanksgiving baskets. The Thanksgiving baskets – a tradition started 32 years ago by former president Joe Porter – are boxes filled with fresh turkeys and “all the trimmings” and then delivered to Jamestown families in need.

The Rotary Club also hosts the annual May Breakfast, which has been an island tradition since 1964. Club members created the garden on the corner of Walcott Avenue and Conanicus Avenue. The garden was built in honor of Will Reynolds, a Rotary member who was “very involved in helping the schools,” Calkins said.

Currently, the island’s Rotary Club has 18 members. Among the members is state Rep. Deb Ruggiero, who said the event is a “huge” deal since the club has been able to serve the community for so long. The Jamestown organization is just one of 65 clubs in District 7950, which is comprised of Rhode Island, southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod. Worldwide, there are nearly 34,000 clubs in over 200 countries with 1.2 million members of every race, color, creed, gender and political preference.

The Jamestown Rotary Club meets for breakfast at 7:15 a.m. every Thursday morning at the Lionel Champlin House on Lincoln Street. Along with a homemade breakfast, the Thursday meetings are a morning of “friends and camaraderie associated with the Rotary at its best.”

The club welcomes non-members each week to join them for breakfast to learn more about what they do. “The Rotary Club is something that certainly has to be a fit and we welcome people to come by an see what we are all about. The more hands, the lighter the work.”

Calkins said that the 70th anniversary party on Friday, March 4, is going to be “food, music and fun.”

She explained that the celebration – which is free – would begin like any normal Rotary meeting. “We salute the flag, say a few words of reflection and sing our song.” Then a band will play and food will be served “in an informal manner.” Following dinner, the Jamestown Community Chorus will sing a song from its upcoming show, “The Pirates of Penzance.”

Also during the festivities, the Jamestown Rotary Club will receive a certificate from the Rotary District in honor of its 70 years of service. The club will also honor any past president in attendance and “recognize them and their work,” Calkins said.

Although there is no admission fee tomorrow night, the Rotary Club will accept donations at the party. “Donations are most appreciated,” Calkins said, “but that isn’t our goal. Our goal here is to get the community engaged in something fun. And we want to try to get everyone involved.”

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