THE OKOTOKS ROTARY CLUB - A Brief History

Our Club's History

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Any discussion about the Okotoks Rotary Club would be incomplete without a brief overview of the larger Rotary picture, namely Rotary International and the Rotary District in which our Club is situated.

Rotary was founded in 1905 in Chicago by a gentleman by the name of Paul Harris. Paul's idea was that business men should get together to enjoy each others company to enlarge their circle of business and acquaintances. Four men met weekly at each member's place of business in turn and each represented a different business and profession. The rotation of meetings was designed to acquaint the members with each others vocations; hence the name ROTARY was adopted.

The second Rotary club was founded in San Francisco in 1908. In August of 1910, when there were 16 clubs, the National Association of Rotary Clubs was organized. After clubs were formed in Canada and Great Britain, the name was changed in 1912, to the International Association of Rotary Clubs. In 1922 the name was shortened to Rotary International. Paul Harris was the first President of the International organization headquartered in Evanston, Illinois.

When Paul Harris passed away on January 27, 1947, he was President Emeritus of Rotary International. At that time, there were some 6000 Rotary Clubs worldwide. As of the end of 2007, there were close to 33,000 clubs, in 532 Districts comprised of over 1.2 million women and men as members. This is not counting the thousands of Rotaract, Interact and Rotary Community Corps clubs with over half a million members.

Rotary Districts were first established in 1915 at which time the Calgary Downtown Club was the only one in the region. In 1957, this area was was established as District 536. By the 1970's the District had expanded to include the Northwest Territories to take in Yellowknife and the northeast corner of BC with all of Alberta and a north/south strip along the entire Saskatchewan border out to North Battleford. It became the second largest geographic district in the Rotary world.In 1957, the District had 30 clubs, and by 1988 the number of Clubs had doubled when Okotoks became the 60th.

With such an immense territory , the District became and a real travelling and communication challenge for each Rotary District Governor. In 1999-2000, District 536 now with about 78 Clubs, was split and our new District, starting with 43 Clubs, covers an area from the US border, north to just north of Ponoka, then from the BC border east into Saskatchewan to contain Kindersley, Swift Current and Maple Creek.

All Canadian Clubs are in Zone 2. The Zone contains 21 or 22 Districts of which only 6 are totally within Canada.

Okotoks Rotary Club

The Okotoks Rotary Club was formally created in May of 1988 as a result of a 1987-88 objective of the High River Rotary Club to start a club in Okotoks. Incidentally, the High River Club was chartered in 1928.

In 1987, then President Ferg Downey, asked 5 members, 3 from High River and 2 from Okotoks , being Moray Keith and Dick Scotnicki, to see if the committee could garner enough interest in the Town to organize a club during his term. Both Moray and Dick were recruited into the High River Club in 1986-87 for the specific purpose of getting a club started in Okotoks. Moray was new to Rotary but Dick was previously a member of the Edmonton Downtown Club for the period 1977 through 1985.

At that time, the Rotary worldwide membership was just under one million and Rotary International put on a big drive to get it's one millionth member. There was lots of publicity and special cards were issued to new members. The drive in Okotoks started in January of '88. Moray Keith was moving to Vancouver to take over an automobile dealership and therefore wasn't available for making contacts with potential candidates.

Recruitment required a lot of phone calls ,one on one luncheons and get togethers in peoples homes in the evenings. Real success came when Brian Quigley, Fred Burley and Dave Jones agreed to participate. These people were movers and shakers in Okotoks. They showed strong leadership in getting many others interested in Rotary. The first informal meeting was held in early February. Ed Whalen, the prominent sportscaster, humanitarian and Rotarian from Calgary who passed away in 2001, spoke about Rotary and how membership in the organization enhanced his life and career.

That initial meeting attracted 15-20 potential members. The target set to officially constitute a viable Club was to get 25 committed people. Meeting were held on alternate weekly mornings and evenings to get an idea of when to met. In the end, enough people liked what they saw and heard and by late February an interm executive was elected made up of Brian, Fred Dave and Dick.

By April, the makings of a Club was well underway with 27 committed people. The decision was made to go for a Charter. A formal election was held with the following people constituting the first officers of the Club:

President - R (Dick) Scotnicki
President Elect - Dave Jones
Vice President - Dave McFadden
Secretary - Jim Lewis
Treasurer - Fred Burley
Directors - Warren Andrews, Brian Quigley, Charles Dixon

In mid May, Dick received a personal letter dated May 9, 1988, from the then President of Rotary International advising that the Okotoks Rotary Club was officially chartered. The actual Charter is dated May 5, 1988 so that is the dated that the Club recognizes as its formal beginning.

The Club didn't have any money back then but the members felt that the President and Secretary should attend the District Assembly in Edmonton from June 16 to 19, 1988. Bruce Klippenstein, then owner of the Western Wheel and the Club's first Sergeant at Arms, donated rooms at Edmonton House, the Rotary District offered 10 cents a km for mileage and the Club threw in $100 for each delegate. This wasn't nearly enough to cover registration, let alone meals but they were pleased and excited to go.

That first Rotary year was really really great. High River donated the Rotary Bell and Rotary Crest on our Lecturn, the Calgary Downtown Club donated a large Rotary flag, and another Calgary Club donated road signs for each end of Town. Sid Smith, our oldest Charter member who passed away in 2007, built the lecturn, a large storage box for all our paraphernalia and the flag stand. The Club did a number of fun and excitng things in that first year:

 The first annual barbecue was held September 21,1988 at Barney and Charlotte Germaniuk's acreage.

 The Club established a number of objectives that were all met. The most noteworthy was to grow the Club by 30% or by 8 new members to 35.

 The Charter Night was held November 5, 1988 at Foothills Composite High School. Over 200 persons in attendance.

 The Club adopted a logo and banner design in early 1989.

In 1989 the Club embarked upon its first events and fundraisers:

February 11: The Wild Colonial Boys Concert at the Elks Hall

April 13: RCMP Concert Band at FCHS ( Spearheaded by Rick Oncescu)

June 17: First Annual Soap Box Derby ( Spearheaded by Barney Germaniuk, Dave Jones and Warren Andrews-60 entries)

June-Sept: Moving and setting up jumps at Spruce Meadows

Late fall: Sponsorship of hockey game between Canadian and French National Hockey Teams

The Club learned a valuable lesson from the sponsorship of that hockey game which was supposed to be a big fundraiser. The vote to hold the game and provide a $5000 financial guarantee succeeded by a narrow margin. Well, not many people showed up and the Club literally lost its shirt to the tune of $1700!

After that escapade, the Club decided that major fundraisers and Club donations from fundraisers would always require a minimum two thirds majority vote to proceed. The Club has never lost money since.

Following that first memorable Rotary year, the Club matured and achieved numerous successes with events for the good of Rotary and the community. The Club continued with Octoberfest, Spruce Meadows and a Pub Night into 1990.

Fundraising efforts at Spruce Meadows then changed from hard work to not so hard, selling programs into the mid 90s.

A Rubber Ducky Race on the Sheep River was held in 1992 and 1993. The event garnered a lot of publicity for the Club, but the unpredictability of the river's water flows caused difficulties and cancellation.

The first annual Foothills Golf Classic was held at D'Arcy Ranch in 1992. This has been a major fundraiser since that time and the proceeds have greatly benefitted the High River Hospital, the Town's pathway system and the Foothills Country Hospice, to name a few of the beneficiaries.

In 1994-95 and 1995-96 the Club held Trip of the Month draws. Tickets were $100 each. The Club made good money but ticket sales in the second year became quite difficult.

The Club took over the Annual Rib Cook Off from the Town Economic Development Commission in 1995 and then became a partner in the Okotoks Pro Rodeo Society in 1996. The Club also does a major casino as the provincial gaming commission allows.

On an Annual basis, these events provide a substantial pool of funds from which the Club has been able to finance numerous major projects, charitable events and emergent situations. These are some examples

 1991 Under the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, the Club, sponsored a student by the name of Kathy Savage from South Africa for a year. Kathy lived with member families and attended FCHS while in Okotoks.

 In 1992 and 1993, our major fundraising went to STARS.

 In 1994 the Club developed Rotary Park in front of the Library, we also purchased a defibulator for regional ambulance.

 In 1995 we helped finance a new E911 Centre in Black Diamond as well as monitoring equipment for the High River Hospital.

 In 1996 the Club helped finance the initial groundwork for Can Oxy Park, since renamed Riverside Centennial Park and in 1996-97 we financed the conversion of part of the Elk's Club into meeting room space.

 In 1997 the Club provided the financing that enabled the Foothills Foundation to purchase a van for Seniors, and we helped finance the Partners Community and Family Resource Network Centre In 1997-98 the Club undertook its largest initiative by donating $ 100,000 towards the Foothills Community Centre.

 In 1998 funding was directed towards the construction of riverside pathways.

 In 1999 the Club purchased a thermal imaging camera for the Okotoks Fire Dept.

 In 2000 the Club financed the move of Heritage House from Northridge Drive and Elizabeth St to a location immediately west of the Station Cultural Centre.

 In 2001 we again financed riverside pathways.

 In 2002 the club provided the funds for a birthing bed for the High River Hospital.

 During the period 2003-2007, the Club directed much of its fundraising toward the Foothills Country Hospice, notwithstanding major financial sponsorship of the Rotary Performing Arts Centre and the food concession facilities at the Foothills Centennial Arena.

Throughout all of these years, the Okotoks Rotary Club has also provided funding and support toward Silent Santa, the Food Bank, regional families in need, student bursaries and many emergency situations such as the New Orleans flood disaster.

In recent years, the Club has provided bicycle helmets to any and all kids in an effort to provide local bike safety, The Club has also been a sponsor with the Town and Okotoks Western Wheel of the local Leaders of Tomorrow program.

All told, during the period 1989-2007, the Club has channeled over a million dollars into the community, the region and beyond.

The Okotoks Rotary Club is made up of men and women dedicated to "Service Above Self". Since its inception, the Club has invited and proudly accepted many exceptional people into the ways of Rotary and they in turn have provided the energy and determination that is evidenced in the programs, facilities and initiatives Rotary has supported.

It is important to note that women, who today play such a large role in Rotary, didn't start becoming members until the early 1990's. It took a few more years for North American and worldwide clubs to break from "old boys" traditions and recognize that women actually enhanced and strengthened clubs.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not conclude by recognizing the many Presidents that have served the Okotoks Rotary Club with distinction since 1988. They are:

Dick Scotnicki - 1988-89
Dave Jones - 1989-90
Dave McFadden - 1990-91
Warren Andrews - 1991-92
Rick Oncescu - 1992-93
Davis Edels - 1993-94
Ted Shacklady - 1994-95
Rick Oncescu - 1995-96 ( G. Niven, partial)
Craig Russell - 1996-97
Sam Clowser - 1997-98
Vance Billey - 1998-99
Al Clements - 1999-00
Bill McAlpine - 2000-01
John Lockhart - 2001-02
Dale Kurta - 2002-03
Bev Geier - 2003-04
Paul Rockley - 2004-05
Stu Donaldson - 2005-06
Stephen Clark - 2006-07
Stephen Clark/Udo Adam - 2007-08
Udo Adam - 2008-09
Dick Nichols - 2009-10

Prepared by Dick Scotnicki, Charter President.
First presented at the Club's 20th Anniversary Banquet - May 14, 2008