Rotary 100 years

Rotary 100 years folder


CUTLINE: Submitted photo


From left, Mike Bernatz (42 years, with 32 years of perfect attendance), Tim McBeth (45 years), Curt Rohrer (58 years), Chuck Shepard (46 years), Dave White (40 years), Nick Edstrom (38 years), Vicki Decker (35 years), and Don Salyards (35 years) were honored for their over 35 years with the Rotary Club. Not pictured were JC Pfeiffer (35 years); Quinn Holtan (36 years); Fred Prudoehl (39 years); and OJ Fawcett (59 years).

In February 1905, a man named Paul Harris invited some local businessmen in Chicago, Ill., to join him in a new endeavor, a way for “professionals with diverse backgrounds (to) exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships.” That group was called Rotary, since the members rotated where they met.

Over the years, Rotary has become a thriving international organization, with more than 46,000 clubs and “Service Above Self” as its motto and overarching emphasis.

On February 10, 1923, Winona started its own Rotary Club. On April 28, 70 people gathered to acknowledge and celebrate the Rotary Club of Winona’s 100th anniversary and to recognize the difference the club has made, both locally and internationally.

The charter club consisted of 23 local businessmen, each representing a different profession. Today, there are about 50 members, each still representing a specific sector or job. 

Some of the more visible ways Rotary has provided service to Winona can be seen throughout Lake Park; part of the road throughout the park is known as Rotary Parkway. Those activities have included building or providing funding for: the first East Lake food bridge; the Frisbee golf course; renovated lake paths; providing logistical support for the first few BK5K races; funding for restoration of the Band Shell and Lake Park Lodge; construction of a picnic shelter on the East Lake; and clean-up of both lakes.

However, that is just a portion of the accomplishments from the Rotary Club of Winona over the past 100 years.

Others (again, only a portion) include:

  • Community service: Windom Park gazebo; Know Your Neighbor events; Goodview Days parade participation; contributions to non-profit organizations in the community; 2007 flash flood relief; Woodlawn Cemetery clean-up; downtown Winona clean-up; donation to restore the Wilkie Steamboat; roundabout planting and weeding near Pleasant Valley Church; participation in Service Club Olympics; reading newspapers to senior at (formerly) St. Anne’s; pedestrian/bike bridge by Saint Mary’s University.
  • Youth and education: Books for Babies (all babies born at Winona Health were sent home with a book); Rotary Readers (monthly in elementary schools, with books left behind for classroom use); Dictionary Project (all third grade students in Winona County receive special youth dictionaries); high school Student of the Month recognition; Shadow Program (high school seniors spent an afternoon shadowing someone in a profession that interested them).
  • Education: Rotary Foundation Scholarships; scholarships to students at Winona State University, Saint Mary’s University, and Minnesota State College – Southeast; student loan fund at Winona State University and Minnesota State College – Southeast; Camp RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards); Camp Enterprise (encouraging entrepreneurship for high school students).
  • International service: Rotary Friendship Exchanges; Group Study Exchanges; “One World Exchange” with Ukraine; Youth Exchange, both inbound and outbound students (our club has either hosted or supported 80 students over the years); provided funding for a dam in Rajkot, India; vocational school in India; computer school for young girls in India; funding for a kindergarten in Mongolia to stay open; funding for a well to be built at a school in Africa; Shelter Boxes (portable shelters and supplies after natural disasters); Rotary Foundation giving, including Polio Plus (Rotary International has had a focus on eradicating polio internationally, which it has mostly succeeded in doing).

Rotary could not, of course, do any of this work without support from the community. Over the years, fundraising efforts have included: brats, hot dogs and corn fundraiser; garage sale; Fast for Hope (during Lent, the club ate only soup at its weekly meetings and donated the rest of its lunch funds to Rotary International); annual Rose Sale; Feed My Starving Children (which acts as both a fundraiser and a service activity; in the 10 years Winona Rotary has been involved, the community has packed 1.2 million meals for children nationally and internationally). The most recent, and probably the most public, fundraising event is Ride The Ridges, which has become known as one of the most scenic and well-run bike tours in the Midwest and has raised $142,000 in its first nine years.

The Rotary Club of Winona is proud of the work it has accomplished the past 100 years, impacting literally thousands of people. At each weekly meeting, the group recites the Four-Way Test, which has always been part of Rotary and is the ideal to which all Rotarians aspire:

  • Is it the truth?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Rotary is always eager to have new members. For more information, please check out the website: