Rotary in Beaver Dam

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In the 100th Anniversary Centennial book published in 1941, there is an article about the History of the Beaver Dam Rotary Club.  Notably Rotary was the first service club in Beaver Dam organized on April 5, 1923 and chartered on June 5th of that year.  The large celebration banquet was attended by Rotarians from other communities including Madison and Milwaukee and Judge Henry Graas of Green Bay was the “brilliant speaker for the occasion”.  The names of the sixteen charter members may be recognized by longtime members even now, 90 years later.
In the article it is stated that:  “It is not the plan of Rotary for individual clubs to sponsor projects to any great extent as an organization.  Rather are Rotarians taught to lend personal service and financial aid to all worthy movements, through the medium of the organizations of the community whose project they are”.  At this point Rotary was 18 years old and the club was proud of establishing a student loan fund, available to worthy High School boys in addition to helping with other helpful activities.
Twenty-five years later, in 1966, the 125th Anniversary publication for the City of Beaver Dam notes that the Rotary and the Kiwanis Clubs have continued to be active in the past 25 years and two other service organizations have been organized in the city.  That would be the Beaver Dam Jaycees and the Beaver Dam Lions Club.  Since most people know about the activities of the two older clubs, only the history of the Jaycees and the Lions was included.
For the Rotary Club, the history of the group is contained in a bankers box filled with a couple of scrapbooks, a disk of photos and a small collection of memorabilia.  Names are missing, but may no longer be significant, what is important is the service the community has enjoyed because of Rotary.  The scrapbooks are interesting, with page after page of clippings and photos of the various projects at Jefferson School.  In 1954 to celebrate the first Arbor Day Celebration, Rotary honored the Golden Anniversary of Rotary International with a commitment to the schools Arboretum project.  Each year since then Rotarians have headed to the school in April to plant a tree. 
There are several issues of the “Rotary Rumblings” a newsletter published by the Secretary for many years.  An issue from sometime in 1967 (dates were not required on the newsletter, but there are post marks on the copies) notes in a column article called “Imagine That” – For three days last week, our own Ralph Borden, Mgr of Sentry Foods, as a token of appreciation for the past patronage and good will to the physicians of our town, sold 7,000 hot dogs (with the works) at $.05 each to the starving and appreciative populous!  
1940 is a noteworthy year.  At that time someone found a Rotary ring, but no one knew who it belonged to.  The person who found it, kept it, and it is now passed from member to member because someone has to keep it!  If you discover who is the rightful owner, please let us know, if not keep it safe and thanks for your dedication and Service above Self – that’s why you have it.
Another scrapbook contains a photo from that first banquet, naturally there are only men in the pictures.  It wasn’t until 1989 that women were welcome to join and the first four were Betty Faas, Sue Grow, Mary Morgan and Sue Christian.  I don’t know if they were welcomed with open arms or brought in to keep the membership growing?!
In 1961 Rotary started a project at the Dodge County Fair with another club, my resource thinks it was the Lions.  The food stand was taken over by the Rotary and in the 70’s families started to help with the fund raising program.  Keeping two lots on the grounds, a building was erected about that time and several years later a kitchen was added.  The effort was supported by Ralph Borden, owner of the local Sentry Food Store and this became the primary fund raiser for the club, continuing through today.
The DVD holds a pictorial history of the Casino night, another fund raising program that generated income to support destitute families and buy trees and other efforts.
Today we have many other projects going on – during the holidays the group raises funds to support Klossner’s Kids, a gift project for families in need.  There is a beautiful plan to design a walk along the Beaver Dam River that will provide an update to a section of the downtown encouraging the community to enjoy this mostly hidden resource.  Scholarships are provided to two college and two tech college participants including both boys and girls.  Contributions have been made to the high school for a new classroom, PAVE, Church Health Services, the Beaver Dam Community Hospital Foundation, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Green Valley, Clothes for Kids, Boy Scouts, Dodge Cty Humane Society, Waterworks Park, Toys for Tots and The Watermark.  Support for community efforts remains a priority and the 90 years of service is stabilized today through a strong membership base including many community leaders whose names are well recognized.  We also have a website and Facebook page – historical in value because of the changes in technology and in our method of communicating with each other.
A recent news article was given to me on the Downtown Rotary Club in Madison who celebrated 100 years of service this year.  They are planning a “Summer Palooza” – designed to become an annual event.  It will be held in the Rotary’s Centennial Plaza outside the Children’s Museum and is designed to bring families downtown.  Perhaps in the next 10 years our Rotary will finish the River Walk and can establish a new festival that will be held to recognize 100 years of service to the City and bring people downtown to the new community center for a party to rival all others!
Thank you to the men and women who make this club great, who bring support to those who need it the most and who continue to use that four way test applying it to their business and their personal outlook on life.  The Beaver Dam Community is the beneficiary and 90 years of continuous support is a remarkable milestone – congratulations!