Rotary Club marks 100 years of ‘service above self’

The Rotary Club of Washington celebrates its centennial anniversary on Wednesday, marking 100 years of “service above self” on local and international levels.

As part of the larger Rotary International organization, the club works on literacy and education projects, as well as larger initiatives, like polio eradication. Nearly 1.2 million people in more than 200 countries are part of Rotary International.

Founded on July 11, 1912, with just 16 members, the Washington club has seen participation fluctuate from 342 people in 1978 to the current 158who meet for weekly Wednesday lunches and meetings.

“We make some wonderful friendships,” President David Klaus said.

Member Clara Montanez decided to join eight years ago after a friend invited her.

“I thought of this as an opportunity to actually get involved in helping out people in Washington and international,” she said, “Actually helping, not just writing a check.”

Anniversary celebrations and commemorations kicked off with a party at the National Botanical Garden in February. Other events included an April 14 gala at the Mayflower Hotel, the same location of Rotary’s 25th, 50th and 75th anniversary celebrations.

Another marking took place June 30 with the ceremonial groundbreaking for six houses to be built in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. They will be thefirst Habitat houses in the Districtto conform to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

Events will continue through 2013, including a spring visit from the Rotary Club of Edinburgh, Scotland, which is celebrating its own 100th anniversary. Next June, 20 to 30 Washington Rotarians will make a reciprocal trip to Scotland.

Founded a century ago on principles of service and fellowship, the Washington club has worked since to give back to the community.

In the past, the Washington chapter has given grants to fund different international projects, including the installation of solar panels in cottages at a Tanzania orphanage and water projects in three rural Chinese villages.

“The people I have met through Rotary by and large are the most committed people, and their biggest goal is to give back,” Ms. Montanez said.

Members also volunteer a little closer to home.

About 10 years ago, the club donated a van to the Salvation Army to distribute meals to the District’s homeless population. The Salvation Army uses it daily, and Rotariansvolunteer twice a month to help run it.

Since World War II, members have been playing bingo once a week with wounded soldiers, first at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District, now at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda after the D.C. facility closed.

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