Holland Noon Rotary Club

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The Rotary Club of Holland was admitted to membership in Rotary International 11 March 1920, the city's first nationally affiliated service club. The 17 charter members quickly identified needs they could serve, sponsoring in 1925 the first of many clinics for crippled children and providing weekly transportation to a Grand Rapids hospital for those children needing special treatment. To cover expenses the club sold crippled children seals and held an annual Horse Show. Eventually they developed links with the public schools' Special Education programs, which resulted in establishing a new Boy Scout troop for handicapped boys and which still continue with annual Christmas and Easter-time programs. To celebrate the movement's 100th birthday in 2005, Holland Rotary spearheaded a fund drive to build a barrier-free children's playground in Holland's Smallenburg Park.

 

Service to children and youth branched out in other ways. For at least 50 years the club has welcomed high-school "Student Rotarians" at its luncheon meetings, a month at a time. It also awards college scholarships to promising young people and sends students to summer leadership camps, both district-wide and the local "Leaders for the 21st Century" program, begun and now cosponsored by Holland Rotary. An annual essay contest focusing on the Four-Way Test seeks to foster sound ethical values in the rising generation. The club has long been active in Rotary's International Youth Exchange program, hosting high-school students from many countries and sending local youth abroad. It has also sponsored recipients of Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Fellowships for graduate study abroad.

 

International service has long been a focus. In the late 1980's the Rotary Club of Holland raised over $100,000 in the Rotary Foundation's "PolioPlus" campaign to wipe out polio and other childhood diseases worldwide; that effort continues, and club members have journeyed to assist in mass inoculation programs. Over the years the club has sent agricultural equipment and an ambulance to India, helped save a rain forest in Belize, worked with Rotarians in South Africa to improve living facilities for the aged, helped build and equip schools in two communities in Mexico, and sent medical professionals and supplies to a needy district in Jamaica. In 2001, the club "passed the hat" for over $6,000 to help rebuild after India's earthquake. Current efforts include on-site participation in clean water programs in countries in the Caribbean region.

 

In recognition of the Holland club's support of the Rotary Foundation's worldwide programs, more that 200 Rotarians and non-Rotarians have received Paul Harris awards.

 

Monetary grants and voluntary service together mark the club's civic contributions. Highway cleanup, Christmas bell-ringing for the Salvation Army, and food drives for Community Action House are among current activities.

 

The club's weekly meetings were held at first in the Community Hall in the former Sentinel Building. The meeting place was changed to the Women's Literary Club, then to the Methodist Church, and when the Warm Friend Tavern was completed, Rotary moved there. Later, after periods at the Elks Club, Holiday Inn, and Raleigh Woods Conference Center, the present location at Haworth Inn was selected. Summer venues have included Castle Park and the Macatawa Bay Yacht Club.

 

In 1988 the formerly all-male club began accepting women as members. In May 2007 its roster of 130 members included 29 women. Several women have served as club presidents and other officers and as directors.

 

Holland Rotary has sponsored the formation of two new Rotary clubs, one in 1934 in the nearby city of Zeeland and a morning club in Holland in 2001. Two members of the Holland club have served Rotary as District Governors; Fred Bertsch (1979-80) and Tom Bos (1998-99).