The Janesville Noon Rotary Club held its first meeting Saturday, Nov. 16, 1918, at the Myers Hotel in downtown Janesville.
World War I had been over for less than a week, and the Spanish flu epidemic finally had started to abate.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Marvin Rosenberry was the speaker, and he told the group, “The most needed thing in American life today is giving by American citizens to their country.”
On Thursday, the club marked 100 years of service to the community. The celebration at the Pontiac Convention Center featured several speakers, including a former Rotary exchange student and Ed Futa, past general secretary and chief operating officer of Rotary International.
The lobby was filled with signs of the club’s service. Displays from the Hope Institute of Uganda, Rotary Botanical Gardens, Kids Against Hunger and other Rotary-supported organizations showed how the local club continues to touch the community and the world.
Janesville also has a Morning Rotary Club, which split off from Noon Rotary in the 1980s.
The 100th anniversary comes during a time of change for the noon club.
On Nov. 1, the organization sold Camp Rotamer, its 20-acre property north of Janesville. Originally developed as a youth camp, the property has been part of the club since 1928.
“It was a really hard decision for the club to make,” President Mick Gilbertson said.
Camp Rotamer was used by local youth until sometime in the 1990s, Gilbertson said.
Since then, the property has been rented for weddings and other events, primarily on weekends and always during the summer months.
The cost of modernizing the camp buildings would have been expensive, and club members believed that money could have a bigger impact elsewhere.
Gilbertson said the property was sold to a neighboring landowner, but he declined to say who.
State real estate records show the property was sold for $425,000 to the Schiefelbein Revocable Trust. Guy Schiefelbein is the agent.
“The sale allows us to better achieve our goals, to stay truer to our mission,” Gilbertson said.
Along with Rotary’s extensive work fighting hunger and its efforts to eradicate polio worldwide, the local club has also helped the Hope Institute in Uganda and has dug wells in Haiti. The club also provides thousands of dollars in scholarships to local students every year.
Club members have always focused on mission above tradition.
For more than 40 years, the Noon Rotary Club ran a popular horse festival. The goal was to host a project that would “entertain the community while it raised money for service projects,” a former president said.
But when community interest waned and the amount of work became overwhelming, the 140-member club decided to move on. The group then focused on its annual corn roast, an event that continues to be popular today.