The Rotary Club of Haliburton's new president Steve Roberts stands in front of the club's latest funded project at the A.J. LaRue Arena – the timber frame entranceway constructed by the Haliburton School of Art and Design's students. This entranceway will be finished by September. /DARREN LUM Staff

Rotary Club making an impact for 75 years 

By Sue Tiffin

When you buy a raffle ticket at the carnival hoping to win a Camaro in August sit alongside friends to eat a lobster feast at Lobsterfest in June or donate a few bucks while listening to a local band play in the band shell at Music in the Park you’re supporting the Rotary Club of Haliburton.

And over 75 years as of the service club’s anniversary on March 27 the Rotary Club of Haliburton has invested that support right back into the community making it what it is today with an impressive list of projects the club has touched.

“Someone said to me once you know when I was a kid everything good that happened in Haliburton was because of Rotary” said Ted Brandon current club president. “I always like to say if Rotary didn’t undertake a project in Haliburton a member of the club was obviously involved in some other aspect of it.”

From the town’s tennis courts and the aforementioned band shell to the installation of the train and the caboose to the development of three parks: Head Lake Park Skyline Park and Sam Slick Park as well as the annual events: the carnival Music in the Park series and community Christmas and skating party Rotary – either alone or in partnership with the municipality – has made a lasting impact.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the community” said Brandon. “There’s a lot of good things that have happened it’s not just Rotary but we take great pride in the things that we’ve contributed for sure.”

The first Rotary Club met in 1905 in Chicago and then became international in 1910 with the first meeting of the Rotary Club of Winnipeg which was chartered in 1912. Now Rotary International has more than 1.2 million members in 32000 clubs within 200 countries.

“It started very humbly as most things do and then started to grow” said Brandon.

Haliburton’s Rotary Club was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Huntsville in 1944 and included members Ron Curry president; Bert Braden vice-president; Tom Barry secretary; Charles Haggen treasurer; directors Art Gilliam W.O. Bailey Clayton Hodgson Jack Robertson and W.R. Curry. Charter members were Rea Stinson George Earle Fred Jones Ed Hunter Merv Robertson and Ray Archer.

Nineteen additional members joined the club that year. Brandon called inaugural president Curry the catalyst to get things started.

“Ron Curry saw Rotary as an opportunity to get like-minded people together to serve the community” he said. “… I think if you read the biographies of all of the past presidents particularly in the early years they were just involved in everything. They were president of the Rotary Club but they were also president of the curling club they were the reeve they were the president of the chamber of commerce they were head of the tourist association they were head of minor hockey. It was all the leaders of our community that came together and I think they just wanted the vehicle to work together for the betterment of the community.”

The earliest years of Rotary in Haliburton were documented well by Curry who wrote a book about the service club in 1964 and updated it in 1974. In 1994 Kim Emmerson and Len Pizzey researched and detailed their findings on the club’s then-50 presidents who included Archie Stouffer Harold Herlihey Carl Hussey Lloyd Coneybeare Lance Easton Murray Fearrey Scott LaRue Art Ward David Gray and Mike Easton.

In that first year club members built a cottage on Lake Kashagawigamog and raffled it off to the public with tickets being sold for 35 cents or seven for $2 (Rotary’s annual car draw which the cottage raffle became has fundraised more than $50000 the past few years).

In August that year the first carnival and street dance was held raising funds for “Crippled Children and the War Services Fund” according to the local Rotary Club website.

Other initiatives sponsored by the Rotary Club of Haliburton included a tonsil removal clinic at the Red Cross Hospital where 30 children were treated by Dr. Chant Dr. Agnes Jamieson and Dr. White of Lindsay; the launch of the Haliburton Citizen Band; an eye clinic where 19 children of 55 tested were found to require glasses which Rotary Club supplied; and a mass tuberculosis clinic where 2600 people were x-rayed.

Donations that year included $500 for Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto $100 to the Haliburton and Wilberforce skating clubs to assist in constructing rinks and two wheelchairs were purchased and $1500 allocated to Victory Bonds.

At that time Rotarians met at the Grand Central Hotel on Wednesday nights for meals costing 55 cents. Haliburton sponsored the Minden club in 1947.

“We’re really really fortunate that a club that’s been around for 75 years we have really good resources to go back and say here’s when this happened and here’s when that happened” said Brandon. “That’s a real luxury for us.”

In the early days of the local Rotary Club Brandon said there was much emphasis on having perfect attendance.

“If you missed a meeting in Haliburton you could go to a meeting in Minden and get what was called a make-up” he said. Rotary member Curry Bishop famously has 56 years – as many years as Brandon has been alive – of perfect attendance at meetings.

In 1987 after years of gender equality discussions and growing movements within the organization the United States Supreme Court supported a California club’s 1976 decision to admit three women as members and Rotary International removed gender requirements for members.

“I think there’s a misconception generally about Rotary that it’s an old boys club and you know I believe that was the case before 1987 when women weren’t allowed in Rotary” said Brandon. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to Rotary to allow women in the club because they bring obviously a different perspective and I don’t know where our club would be without our female members.”

Lynda Shadbolt was the first female member of the Haliburton Rotary Club joining in the mid-’90s. She would become the club’s first woman president as well.

“Our club as it has changed is more reflective of our community” said Brandon. “It’s tough in Haliburton to talk about diversity but we’re certainly endeavouring to get more women in the club. We want the club to mirror our community. We’re looking to grow.”

Besides the landmark projects that are visible on a daily basis Haliburton Rotary Club has done much work behind the scenes helping local families in need and donating money to help support services including health services.

“We’re very proud of our commitment to the health services foundation” said Brandon. “We made a commitment when they announced the new hospitals to contribute $250000. We actually had raised money prior to that campaign and subsequently after have given health services additional funding. They tell us we’ve contributed over half a million dollars for health services in Haliburton County. So you know that’s a pretty important thing in our community.”

Born to a Rotary family himself Brandon grew up with Rotary exchange students in the house and helping at the Minden carnival. He tells people he has been a member of the club for 26 years but it has been part of his life for 56 years.

“I remember as a kid they had the games of chance where they had the packages of cigarettes and the cork gun and you tried to knock the cigarettes over with the cork gun and if you did you got the pack of smokes” he laughed. “Can you imagine?”

Brandon said the Rotary Club of Haliburton – named this past Saturday as being the non-profit of the year by the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce – has had a good year in which new members have joined and another major Head Lake project is in the works.

“I think if you make an effort to welcome people into your club people are open to it” he said.

“Obviously everyone’s busy these days. All our kids are out every night. Everyone’s life is very busy … I also feel if you explain to people how they can become involved and the good they can do in their community by joining it seems to be working for us this year anyway. Our club has gotten younger we’ve welcomed more women this year I think we’re moving in the right direction there … One of my goals moving forward is to try to [continue to] bring our membership up because many hands make light work.”

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