WEYBURN - The Weyburn Rotary Club was finally able to celebrate their centennial a year and a half late, gathering at the Legion Hall for a supper and a look back and forward.
The District 5550’s past District Governor, Fred Wright, was on hand to present the certificate of the centennial, and noted there were three clubs who hit the 100-year mark in 2020. His home club in Kenora, Ont., and Prince Albert also had their centennials along with Weyburn.
“I was supposed to be here a year and a half ago, but stuff kind of happened in between,” quipped Wright, referring to the COVID-19 restrictions which led to the original celebration’s cancellation in 2020.
The supper was highlighted by a look back at the club’s history, by 46-year member Stafford Nimegeers, a look at where the club is right now by club treasurer Garnet Hart, and then Wright spoke of what Rotary can look forward to in the future.
The Weyburn club was chartered on April 1, 1920, at a supper held in the Royal Hotel’s dining room with 20 members present, and grew to 58 members by 1955.
“Rotary is built on the ideal of service,” said Nimegeers, who noted in the early years the club raised money for a variety of causes, including sponsoring boys baseball. In the 1940s, members sold macintosh apples on the street during “Weyburn Apple Days”, to raise money for other projects in the community.
One of the projects was raising money for a new hospital, the one that Weyburn will now be replacing, they did Victory Loan campaigns, raised funds for food for Britain, and for flood relief in Winnipeg.
The Rotary Music Festival was first held in 1944, and Rotary launched the first carol festival in 1947, while internationally they supported the fight against polio, and provided shelterbox packages in areas that experienced disasters.
In more recent years, the Rotary has supported “Books for Babies”, the Music Festival, planted trees in the Tatagwa Parkway, the Salvation Army, and helped with the Hospitality in the Park at River Park. They also sold Christmas nut and fudge trays, did a golfball drop in support of STARS air ambulance, and have done highway cleanup efforts in the Weyburn area.
Nimegeers related how, as a young lawyer in 1975, he was sponsored as a new member in Rotary by then-Police Chief James McCardle, who he knew by meeting him in provincial court on various matters.
“Rotary has been my favourite service club. It’s been a wonderful 46 years for me,” he said, adding the hope the club can continue to do service and have fellowship for years to come.
In his talk, Hart noted the club is still guided by the motto of “service above self” and the Four-way Test. Things changed in March of 2020 when the lockdowns went into effect for COVID, and the club met virtually on Zoom for the next 15 months before they were again able to meet in person.
Among the impacts of the lockdown was the cancellation of two major fundraisers, the golf ball drop and the chocolate-nut trays, but they have moved on with new, different fundraisers, such as the “Staycation” raffle tickets, and the sale of used purses and jewelry that is coming up.
Another effect was in being able to have speakers from elsewhere in Canada and the world through Zoom.
Wright returned to the podium to speak to the future, and he pointed out the challenge is how to stay relevant and be able to grow with younger members.
He noted the largest club in the district is in Winnipeg, with 75 members, including a satellite club made up of young people, and the second largest is in Dryden, Ont., with 59 active members. They regularly raise funds over $150,000, which allows them to do many projects in their area.
“These were all a result of community engagement,” he said, as the clubs are open and sensitive to what the community wants and needs.