Stillwater Rotary in front of Stillwater depot departing for Duluth Conference March 1922.jpg

Stillwater Rotary in front of Stillwater depot departing for Duluth Conference March 1922. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)

In 1919, a group of men in Stillwater joined together to start a small Rotary Club as a way to serve the local community and the world. Now celebrating its 100th year in the city, the Stillwater Rotary has grown, chartered new clubs in the area, supported local and international charitable efforts and is looking ahead to another 100 years of service.

In celebration of this milestone, the Stillwater Rotary is holding a dinner Oct. 10 and inviting the greater community to join.

“This is a celebration of the community that has supported us for the last 100 years,” said member Tracey Galowitz.

With it’s motto of “Service Above Self,” the goal of the organization is to bring community members together as a way to enhance the community they live in and to join together with the 1.2 million Rotary member - called Rotarians - across the world to bring about global change. One of the main goals of the Rotary Club for the last 100 years has been to eradicate polio, and has joined together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to complete that goal in all but a few remote pockets of the world. The next goal is to eliminate human trafficking.

Member David Wettergren said that he joined the Rotary on the advice of a man in his community.

“He told me, ‘young man, service is the price you pay to be a member of a community,’” Wettergren said. “It really does help you understand the concept of how good it feels to give, but on the other side I have received so much from my membership.”

Rotarians follow an ethical code in their conduct as a group and in their professional lives called “The Four Way Test:” Is it the Truth; Is it fair to all concerned; Will it build goodwill and better friendships; and will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Member Gretchen Stein Wettergren said that while the goal of the group is not to be a professional networking organization, they often patron each others businesses and value the code of ethics the Rotary promotes.

“Tracey is my attorney, another member is my wealth manager, we buy our cars from the Raduenz family, not because we are selling to each other but because they are our friends,” Stein Wettergren said.

“So when you live your life with service above self and living with those ethical standards, it makes for a pretty great gathering of people in the community, right around a certain value system and, and a dedication,” Galowitz said.

The first ever Rotary Club was started in Chicago in 1905. Prior to World War I, only larger cities had Rotary Clubs - Minneapolis being the 9th club and St. Paul was the 10th — but as men and women were returning to normal life after the war effort, clubs began in smaller communities like Stillwater.

The charter to the Stillwater club was formally presented at a dinner meeting in the Stillwater Club on Friday Sept. 26, 1919. President Upton of the St. Paul club made the official presentation, as the St. Paul and Minneapolis clubs had sponsored the Stillwater group.

In the early years of the club, the club completed several community projects, including a bathhouse at Lily Lake Beach, a barge terminal at Stillwater; the tourist camp across the St. Croix River, a Scout cabin on Big Marine Lake and new streetlights in Downtown Stillwater.

In early 1934, the Roatry club sponsored the founding of the Washington County Historical Society.

Today, the group continues to sponsor local youth programs and community service projects, as well as sponsor a hospital in Tanzania and building roads in Guatemala.

“What makes international projects work well is that we aren’t just sending money somewhere; we are partnering with a Rotary club in that community and supporting them with their project,” Galowitz said.

The Stillwater Rotary will be holding its “100 years of service” celebration 6-9 p.m. Oct. 10 at the JX Event Venue, 123 Second St. N. in Stillwater. Tickets are $75 for one ticket, $100 for two tickets or $400 for a table for eight. Tickets can be purchased at 100StillwaterRotary.com.

There are a few tickets available for free based on need, Galowitz said, due to financial gifts from the event’s sponsors.

“We don’t want cost to prevent the community from joining us in this celebration,” Galowitz said.

Contact Alicia Lebens at alicia.lebens@ecm-inc.com

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