Stettler Rotary Club president

Stettler Rotary Club president

Stettler Rotary Club gearing up for 90th anniversary

For the past 90 years, members of the Stettler community have donated their time and money through the Rotary Club

For the past 90 years, members of the Stettler community have donated their time and money through the Rotary Club to help better the local community, province, and international community and next week, the club is looking to celebrate its past.

While the club’s focus is normally on everyone but its members, for this special event, the focus will be on members past and present, explained president Valerie Odell.

The celebration, which will be held at the Stettler United Church from 2 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14, will start with a presentation of the past efforts of the membership, from simpler occasions like parades and barbecues to more complex projects like the building of the Stettler Spray Park, contributions to the pool and skateboard park, and recent work with the new library.

“What I like about Rotary is our motto – service above self,” Odell said. “It’s not about us, but about what we can do in our communities.”

The club holds several annual events, such as the Farmer Appreciation Night, the Ted Connor Memorial Golf Tournament at Pheasantback Golf Club, and the annual student exchange program.

Odell said she hopes past members of the Rotary Club, as well as members of the United Church Women’s association, which has been host to the club’s weekly meetings for decades, will come to next week’s gathering to share with the gathering their own memories of being part of the Rotary movement and the projects and differences the club has made in the community and internationally.

“One of the things I’m very proud of is the support of a women’s school in Africa,” Odell said. “It’s one of the more successful ones, and now the girls who went there are in turn teaching the next generation.”

The Stettler Rotary Club has a long history in the community: it was founded on May 12, 1924 with founding members Guy Gundaker as president and Chesley R. Perry, secretary of Rotary International.

Twelve local business men had gathered at the parlor of the National Hotel at the invitation of “Big Jim Davidson” from Calgary, recalled Pen Griffith, who wrote his recollections of the club’s beginnings 30 years ago.

“We actually had very little idea of what it was all about, but Jim was a good salesman,” he wrote.

Though he said the club initially didn’t accomplish very much as its members learned about what it meant to be Rotarian, by the time he retired, it was different.

“You can be assured I was very impressed with the evidence of the accomplishments (of the club),” he wrote. “You are assisting the young in becoming better citizens and your regard will come as they take their part in the community.”

Odell noted that a news clipping from 1943 reported that Stettler, a small community of 1,300, was a club so neat that district governor McFadden’d, “never seen a neater town of its size…There is a swamp in the town, but the Rotary Club has turned it into a small but beautiful park.”

During the Second World War, the Rotary Club raised money to send comfort to 30 Stettler soldiers who were captured during the raid on Dieppe, the club’s history reveals as well.

From the club came one district governor, when Russ McKinney was elected in 1969-70. The election of one of its own as district governor did much to bolster the local club.

Over the years, the club has sponsored the community’s first ice show, built the Rotary Park (which was destroyed by fl ooding in 1959 and rebuilt in a different part of town), established the Rotary Scholarship Fund that provides three scholarships to Grade 11 students, sent students overseas and brought international students to the community through the Rotary Exchange Student Program, supplied the arts community with a grand piano, and contributed to local sporting infrastructure, just to highlight a few of many projects.

This year, the Rotary Club has thrown itself behind the building of the reading area in the new library, the skate park which is hoped to break ground later this year, funded Taiwan-bound exchange student Meghan LaRose, a Grade 12 student at William E. Hay Composite High School, and upgraded the Rotary Gazebo.

The club changes president each year, so the club’s 90th anniversary celebration will be Odell’s last hurrah as president, but she insists it’s not at all about her.

“I’m really eager to see all the different faces and hear all the different stories,” she said. “Once these people are gone, their stories are too.”