Our Club History
A Brief History of the Rotary Club of Hamilton AM
In 1983, Bob Forsythe, President of the Rotary Club of Hamilton, requested that the Board of Directors consider the possibility of forming a new morning Rotary Club to serve the need of people wishing to become Rotarians in the central area of Hamilton-Wentworth, now the City of Hamilton. Past President and Governor’s Representative, Tom Lamb, was asked to develop a proposal to bring this new club into being and their clubs in the Hamilton-Wentworth area (Dundas, Hamilton Mountain and East Hamilton/Wentworth) were invited to participate with the development of the new morning club and initial planning meetings were held at the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.
The charter to form the new club was granted to The Rotary Club of Hamilton “AM” on February 6, 1986 and the first Board of Directors were:
  • President: Paul Pettit
  • President-Elect: Ellard McBane
  • Vice President: Ray Howe
  • Secretary: Des Micklos Jr.
  • Treasurer: Bruce Johnson
  • Sergeant-at-Arms: Ed Zenklewich
  • Directors: Gerry Righton, Robert Chapman, James Cimba, Francis Rocchi, David Hector, Roy Smith
When the new AM Club was formed, the 43 Charter members dedicated a Paul Harris Fellowship to Tom Lamb for his outstanding support and direction.
Over the years meetings were held at the Thistle Club on Robinson Street, the Hamilton Squash and Fitness Club on Jarvis Street, The Royal Connaught Hotel, The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce (currently operating as the Waterfront Banquet and Conference Centre) and finally at Williams Fresh Café at 47 Discovery Drive on the Hamilton waterfront.
Early fundraising activities included “Auto load” lotteries with Dodge Minivan raffles. Proceeds of these raffles were used to purchase vans for Amity Goodwill Industries and the Good Shepherd Centre. In 1987, the principle fundraiser become bingo and the AM Club became a sponsor of the weekly bingo at Centennial Bingo Hall in Stoney Creek.
For a number of years, the Club assisted Hamilton Police in raising money for Special Olympics by holding Pancake Breakfasts at Gore Park. Other fundraisers included supervision of the parking lot at the Earthsong festival; Firework sales and Nevada lottery ticket sales. There were also international theme nights held to raise money including a Dinner/Dance building around a different international theme annually including Ukrainian New Year (Malanka), “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” Fun Night; and an Italian evening, entitled “That’s Amore.”
Our biggest fundraiser continues to be the BBQ Auction held at the Ancaster Fairgrounds, but for many years held at the beautiful farm of Charter Member, Gord Thompson and his wife, Linda. This event, which welcomes 450+ participants, generally raises a net fundraising total of $65,000 for the Club. In 2012, Rotarians Tim Dickins initiated a new event, “An Evening with Bortz” at the Hamilton Club which raised $30,000 for local charities and the Club. It has run for three years. For his mammoth efforts, Tim 
wa awarded on the day of the District Governor’s visit in 2015. This year, we delayed this fall event and instead will celebrate a major celebration in the spring of 2016 to showcase the history, and past and current successes of our Club. It is also at this event, that we would like to present a tribute to the 30 year-long Rotarian life of Gordon Thompson, one of our Charter members who has supported the Club beyond measure.
Local Projects:
We are proud to report, as of 2015, that the Rotary Club of Hamilton AM has donated nearly $3,000,000 to important causes in the local and international community. Outlined here are some of the key areas of support:
Under the leadership of Ray Howe, in 1988 the AM Club became a supporter of T.E.A.D. (The Equestrian Association for the Disabled). This program funded disabled children and adults to enjoy horseback riding activities and was extremely well-received and still exists today.
In 1990, the Board Executive initiated a project with the Hamilton Community Child Abuse Council dealing with violence against children. Over three years, the Club provided $75,000 to assist the Council in the development of a handbook for practitioners and a video for use with children and adults. The project, called “Break the Cycle”, attracted international attention both as an aid to families involved with the violence in the home, and a fund generator in it’s own right.
During the early 2000’s, major projects included renovations to the Wesley Urban Ministries Community Centre and Hamilton FoodShare and major contributions to PolioPlus.
In the mid 2000’s, The Club supported Victoria Park Homes including the construction of a park area and basketball courts for the families in the area to enjoy. Our Club made a two-year 40,000 commitment to assist the newly funded Jamesville Community Centre. Monies were used to make the Centre accessible to all, with a accessible front door and in renovations to make the washrooms accessible to all.
In 2009 and 2010, the Club returned to help the Community Child Abuse Council, yet again. This time was a two-phase project with the first being the development of the “Rotary Club of Hamilton AM Room”, a special room where they feel safe, that was used by children who have been the victims of violence and abuse. This project gave the Club the opportunity for hands on demolition and painting of the offices. The second tier of the commitment was funding the upgrade of the “Touching” video we helped the Community Care Access Centre develop.
In 2011/2012, our Club raised funds to help improve accessibility for the Community Centre for HAARP (Hamilton Association for Residential and Recreational Redevelopment Program); it helped the Community Child Abuse Council and forwarded significant funds to our international project in Malawi. We also started a new initiative to raise Funds, the Clowns for Kids at the Hamilton Santa Clause Parade.
In 2013, there was a fundraiser to support the infrastructure needs of the Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton and Area, as well as continued support for the Child Abuse Council.
Since then, the Club has given support to Food4Kids (multi-year), a program which sends food home with kids on weekends, YMCA Healthy Kids, the Beasley Youth Initiative (multi-year), An Instrument for Every Child, Imagine in the Park and many more than we can name in this short report. We are currently in the process of targeting for funds for the 2015/2016 will go. Our Major Projects Committee will be looking to the community for submissions very soon.
A major international project of our district during the 1980s had a special impact on the AM Club: the building of the hospital in Katmandu, Nepal. The AM Club was chosen to be the Canadian sponsor of the project. To meet the Canadian financial obligations, Maurice Graff, Canadian Chair, and his team visited 24 Clubs in our District and raised $202,697 over a two year period to support the Nepal project.
In 1999, after two years of planning, a group of Hamilton AM Rotarians travelled to Slovakia to participate in the Charter Night for the re-established Rotary Club of Kocise, Slovakia. This club was originally chartered in 1928, however was disbanded after WWII when the Soviet Union took over. The re-establishment was under the leadership of Jim Cimba, John Tkach and Past District Governor Ellard McBane, the AM Club with the assistance fo the Rotary Club of Poprad of Slovakia.
In the late 2000’s, the Club was highly involved in support a Uganda project and most recently, the World Community Foundation, led by Tony Wellenreiter was responsible for a major initiative partnering with Salaama Shield which raised over $100,000 for Malawi, which supported micro loans and education for mothers.
In 2014, the Club donated $10,000 to a school in Guatemala led by Access Education founded by Torontonian, Dr. Adrienne Rosen. Our President visited the school and brought photos of the school room that bears the name of “Club Rotario Hamilton AM”.
New Generations:
We have supported Rotary Exchange Students both by receiving students in our homes and assisting students form our area with their experiences abroad. The Club continues to support Youth Programs such as the Rotary Youth Leadership, sending one individual every year, Slapshot Programs, The Interact Club at Sir John A. Macdonald High School, The McMaster Rotaract Club, which we chartered, and the New Hamilton Community Rotaractor Group.
We are very proud that under the Leadership of Ellard McBane, our Club chartered the McMaster Rotaract Club.
Fellowship and Celebration:
Early social events included the President’s Ball held at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club and thhe Club’s first picnic at Ray Howe’s trout farm in August 1986. This event evolved into an annual summer BBQ/Auction fundraiser at the farm of Gord and Linda Thompson for many years and eventually to the Ancaster Fairgrounds where it we just celebrated its 30th year.
In celebration of 100 Years of Rotary, the Club created and paid for an insert into the Hamilton Spectator newpaper and some 25 members travelled to Chicago to share in the Centennial Rotary International Convention.
We have had many socials over the years including dances, card parties and showers. Most recently, we had a social at McMaster University at the Phoenix Pub where we mixed with the McMaster Rotaracters. Ten Rotary couples met and mingled with ten Rotaracters. It was a very successful night.
Our next planned fundraiser will be a Holiday event held at the Armouries on James St. North in Hamilton where Rotarians and Rotaracters alike will get to meet the men and women of the Argyle and Highlanders stationed in Hamilton.
Literacy and Community School Support:
Since 2006, AM Club Rotarians has created and participated in the “Reading Buddies” Literacy program at Hess Street School, a school with 40 languages and mostly New Canadian families, which involves members partnering with grade school children to help them enhance their reading skills. The Club has helped Hess Street School through the donation of a dishwasher and has held an annual Holiday “Pancake Breakfast” for all students and teachers. Lastly, each year 30 lucky graduates from Hess Street are presented with a laptop to help them with their school work.
Another school in the community to have received support from the Club is Dr. Edgar Davey School in one of the poorest communities of Hamilton. Our Club donated more than $80,000 to construct two beautiful playgrounds for the grade school of 600 children. Recently, in 2015, we donated another $50,000 to repair the playground pad to make the area safer.
Because of our high level of community involvement, the AM Club has won a number of presidential citations and District Lighthouse awards over the 30 years. In 2002/2003, the Club won an International President’s Global Award as one of the top 100 Clubs worldwide for its overall increase in membership.