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Rotary club celebrates it's 116 birthday





This week members of Formby Rotary, now in its 53rd year and best known for trawling the streets of Formby each December with their famous Carol Wagon, held their weekly “Zoom” meeting to celebrate the 116th birthday of Rotary International. President Jan Owen led the toast, which was shared with 1.2 million Rotarians in 35,000 Clubs in 220 countries across the world.


The first gathering, in February 1905 in Chicago, was initiated by attorney Paul Harris. Paul had made a career spanning all sorts of jobs, but ending up building a successful law practice. He had an idea based on the benefits of regular meetings with professional acquaintances. Three other men, a coal merchant, a mining engineer and a tailor attended this first meeting and one of them, Silvester Schiele, was elected President.


The Rotary name was chosen because they initially met in each other’s offices on rotation. However the Club grew and soon adopted the now usual practice of gathering in a meeting room or restaurant.


The idea spread and new Clubs were organised in San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle and Los Angeles. At this point they got together to form an umbrella organisation - the National Association of Rotary Clubs in America. By 1910 the first Club outside of the USA, in Winnipeg, was founded and then Clubs on this side of the Atlantic soon followed with Dublin in 1911 and London soon after.


Growth continued and, by the end of WW1, there were 22 Clubs in Britain. Clubs were also started in the Philippines in 1919 and India in 1920 and, as a result, the name of the organisation was changed to “Rotary International”.


As mentioned at the start, Rotary is now a huge world-wide organisation and works both at the local level and across the whole planet addressing peace and humanitarian issues. Rotary’s biggest project is, in co-operation with the Bill Gates Foundation, the drive to eradicate polio totally and we are 99% of the way there.


There are now 1700 clubs in Britain with 45000 members, and it is great that there are 2 clubs in Formby. At the local level we run, as mentioned above, the Carol Wagon each December, but also engage throughout the year on many smaller community projects (for example organising the Young Musicians competition) as well as raising funds for other local and international charities (we recently completed the rebuild of a school in Nepal that had been devastated by an earthquake).

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