Lansing Rotary Celebrates 100 Years

The Rotary Club of Lansing celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, having been organized as part of Rotary International on May 29, 1916, as the 232nd club. Paul P. Harris, a Chicago attorney formed one of the world’s first service organizations, the Rotary Club of Chicago, on Feb. 23, 1905, as a place where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of each member. The idea and popularity spread rapidly. Only 16 years after being founded, Rotary had clubs on six continents. Worldwide, there are now more than 1.2 million members.

Lansing Rotary’s history and that of the Lansing region are interwoven. Its members are frequently found as members of hospital boards, local school boards, United Way, the Chamber of Commerce and other local charities. A book, researched and authored by club members under the direction of Patrick Hanes, is being published early this spring which will document the club’s first 100 years. The club recognized that their historical records contained information about Michigan and Lansing that may benefit others. As a result, those records have been provided to the Capital Area District Library, which is digitizing those records to make them accessible in the future.
Rotary’s original roots were founded on the basic goal of business networking. It did not take long for the concept of service to become the glue that attracted and retained members. Today, Lansing Rotary’s 230 members continue to test the theory that those who serve others are happiest in their personal and business life.

Rotary organizes its service efforts through five avenues – community, international, vocational, youth and club service. Its worldwide efforts to eradicate polio are the most well known and have attracted partners such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Gates Foundation to join the fight. On a local level, Lansing’s members have donated more than $2 million dollars in community service activities, ranging from a veterinary clinic at Potter Park Zoo to being the lead gift in funding the HOPE scholarship program. As part of the current Centennial celebration, Rotary’s members committed to a lead gift of $250,000 as part of a $550,000 new water exhibit, at Impression 5 Science Center.

Lansing Rotarians placed special emphasis on this Centennial project, as it honors the estimated 4,000 past members who served Rotary and the community over the last 100 years. This gift will also set the stage for ongoing community service in the future. More than 30 ideas were proposed for the Centennial Project, and after significant deliberation, the club selected the Impression 5 Water Room as the grant recipient. Kurt Guter, a past president and long time member said Impression 5’s water project is particularly meaningful, as Rotary has had a long history in water related efforts. Guter has participated in helping villages in Nepal and Ecuador install new water systems, and also urged the club to support bio-sand filter projects, which are directed at providing clean water to individual homes in developing countries. The bio-sand filter efforts have been supported by Lansing Rotary since 2007.

Julie Pingston, chair of the celebration sub-committee said, “It is inspiring to work with others who are so dedicated to improving our community. Initially, I did not understand the Rotary motto of ‘He/she profits most who serves the best’ – now I do.”

While the benefits of 100 years of Rotary service are evident, Pingston, Guter and other members like them are intent on making sure that the glue of service to others stays alive. To them, being happy in their personal and business life is no longer just a theory, but a fact. This fact should propel the club forward for another 100 years.

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Mark Hooper

Mark Hooper is a past president of the Rotary Club of Lansing and chair of the Celebration Steering Committee. Mark is also the co-founder of the regional accounting firm Andrews Hooper Pavlik PLC.

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