Come January 28 the Rotary Club of Freeport, the second oldest club in The Bahamas, will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary with a banquet at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club.

Club president Dr. Leanthandore Percentie, said this celebration is of tremendous national importance.

"Throughout the 50 years of its existence, the Rotary Club of Freeport has made tremdous contributions not just to Grand Bahama, but to other areas of The Bahamas and indeed the world. For those whose lives have been touched by the Rotary Club of Freeport, it has made a positive impact.

"In addition to its ongoing scholarship program over the years the Rotary Club of Freeport has been directly involved in numerous projects such as Operation Raleigh that exposed young people to different cultures around the world; the Admiral Lord Nelson which was a special ship outfitted for persons with disabilities, the Lucayan National Park, the Grand Bahama Emergency Water Relief Foundation that provides drinking water after a disaster, the rebuilding of the YMTA Center in Pinders Point after hurricane Frances and Jeanne in 2004, annual food drive for the elderly, etc."

He added that during the evening Harold "Sonny" Waugh will be awarded the Sir Durwood Knowles Humanitarian Award by all four Grand Bahama Rotary Clubs.

In a press conference this week it was noted that the work of Rotary in Grand Bahama began in 1961 when the first provisional club was formed in November, 1961, by 23 men inspired by the Rotary ideal, like every Rotarian thereafter of service above self. These 23 men believed in the Rotary motto of service, "He profits most who serves best."

The first project, according to Rotarian Mike Stafford involved the clearing and maintenance of a field which later became the present day YMCA.

According to the history of the club, on January 25, 1962, the official charter was presented to the Rotary Club of Freeport. The Freeport Rotary Club is in District 6990 which includes Grand Bahama and Southeast Florida. The Charter President was Reginald J. Curtis. The 23 charter members, including the president were Harold "HAP" Allen, Jim Crockwell, J.T. Edenfield, Brian Ellis, James Hall, George C. Hust III, Sidney Mahony, Joe McKenna, Collier Page, T.R. Parker, Joel E. Pyle, Douglas Silvera, AL Soskin, Earl Thomas, John Barber, Bob Darville, Peter Gregory, Ed Link, John Muller, Ken Piaget, Bert Sinden and Harry Bowen.

 

Almost immediately the Freeport Rotary Club set about doing community projects both in Freeport and the outlying settlements. The trend continues to this day. Throughout the years the Freeport Rotary Club has been involved in the following projects:

* The Development of a Rotary Playing field in 1963 which was later handed over to the YMCA in 1968;

* A playing field in Sea Grape, Eight Mile Rock;

* Christmas Dinner for the elderly;

* Distribution of food packages throughout the length and breadth of Grand Bahama;

* Assistance with hurricane relief efforts;

* Building classrooms at St. Paul's Methodist College;

* Assistance with the Boy Scouts Club House,

* Assistance with the G. B. School for Exceptional children;

* Assistance with the children's home,

* Operation Hope;

* Donations of computers, library tables, chairs, books cases and a resource library to the Genesis Academy and the Children's Village;

* Swimming lessons,

* Lifesaving courses,

* Road safety campaign;

*Distribution of books throughout Grand Bahama;

* Distribution of wheelchairs throughout Grand Bahama;

* Award of scholarships to qualified young persons in Grand Bahama;

* Donation of a mammogram machine to the Rand Memorial Hospital;

* Donation of a fire truck to the Settlement of High Rock, Grand Bahama;

* Building of a house in the Settlement of Williams Town for an elderly woman;

* The rebuilding of the YMTA with grant money from The East Nassau Club as well as the Robins fund. Over $36,000 was pumped in to restore the hurricane damaged community center,

* Back to school drive to aid schools in Grand Bahama and the list goes on.

It was noted that some of those projects are carried out through funds raised by the Club and some with assistance of other Rotary Clubs on Grand Bahama, in The Bahamas, in the District and some with the assistance of the Rotary Foundation.

In addition to its own projects the Freeport Rotary Clubs regularly raise funds to assist other clubs and charities on Grand Bahama. Sometimes the assistance is in terms of manpower. Other charities and clubs regularly assisted by the Freeport Rotary Club include:

* Santa's Helpers;

* Northern Council for the disabled;

* The school for Exceptional Children;

* The Falcons Boys Club;

* Special Olympics;

* BASRA;

* The Circus;

* The Salvation Army;

* The YMCA in Eight Mile Rock.

Officials say that every year the Club is challenged to come up with fund-raising ideas in order to ensure that they will have sufficient funds for all of these projects. Throughout the years they have held fishing tournaments, golf tournaments, air shows, Past President walk-a-thons, participated with the other Clubs in Guy Fawkes night and the Rotary Ball, held pig roasts, beer fests and the sale of the World's Finest Chocolate.

In 1976 the Club under the leaderships of Craig Stewart acquired the Rotary Wagon to assist with its fund-raising activities. The wagon would go out to the various school fairs, Junkanoo, and other civic and business organizations, selling cotton candy, sno-cones, popcorn, at one stage candied apples, and now nachos and cheese.

In 1986 the present Rotary Wagon was acquired with a sizeable donation from Sir Jack Hayward. Thanks to the generosity of Rotarian Richard Bates, past President and past Assistant Governor the wagon has a home in between functions.

Prior to 1996 the Club always had a Ladies Day. To celebrate Emancipation Day in 1996, under the sponsorship of Rotarian Lee Van Lew, the Club made history by the induction of three female members – Paula Harris, our First female President, Arnett "Betty" Van Lew, who has received many accolades from her fellow Rotarians, and Past President Constance Elrone McDonald.

The induction of females in the Rotary Club of Freeport sparked the formation of the Sunrise Rotary Club which has been holding its own since then.

Other history making events by the Freeport Rotary Club include the hosting of the Rotary International District 6990 Assembly in May, 1982, in Grand Bahama. The Assembly was hosted by the Fort Lauderdale, the Freeport and the Lucaya Clubs. A Rotary District Conference was also held in Grand Bahama in September, 2002. In 2004 we had a visit by the Rotary International President Jonathan B. Majiyagbe and raised $64,000 for the Rotary Foundation when almost every member of our Club contributed $1,000 to become a Paul Harris Fellow. Many members of our club are either double or triple Paul Harris Fellows.

This event was attended by Rotarians throughout the Bahamas who were pinned by the International President.

On an international level the Club regularly contributes and hosts exchange students from all over the world. In conjunction with the other Rotary Clubs on the island they host the Group Study Exchange, Ambassadorial scholars and other groups coming from our District and other Districts. They also send exchange students around the world where they are hosted by other Rotary Clubs.

The Freeport club was also the local club to partner with District 7020 (Rotary clubs of the Bahamas) and District 5280 (Santa Monica area clubs) in the realization of the Grand Bahama Emergency Water Relief Foundation, a hurricane proof building which houses a reverse osmosis machine, generator and water tanks.

The facility can manufacture and distribute drinking water to those in need after normal supply is interrupted after a hurricane. Over $217,000 was invested and District 6990 awarded it the 'Best International Project with multi districts' for 2007-2008.

In 2001 they sponsored our first Rotaract Club. The Charter President was Raquel Ferguson. The first Interact Club was at Freeport High School in the 1960's. St. Paul's Metho-dist School Interact Club was sponsored in June of 1981 and subsequently they sponsored an Interact Club at Eight Mile Rock High School. The Rotaract Club is for young adults at the college level, who are under the age of 30 and the Interact Club is for high school students.

In 1970 the Rotary Club of Lucaya was sponsored by the Freeport Rotary Club. Its charter is dated March 13, 1970. The provisional club was formed November 17, 1969.

From 1969 our Club has introduced the Rotary Four Way Test in the high schools. The idea being that there was a need for moral impetus in the schools, as a result it was good if the students would adopt the Four Way Test of things we think, say or do and make it our own.

Celebrating on Saturday January 28 entertainment will be provided by Matrix Band, Kevin Tomlinson youth choir and a Junkanoo rush-out to round out evening.