Princeton Rotary Club members are preparing to say farewell to four decades of service.
Effective next Tuesday, June 30, the club will cease to exist in the community.
Earlier this year, a small group of club members decided it was time to close down and officially dissolve, and retire the club’s charter, which was officially presented on Nov. 17, 1980, during an event at the Farm Supper Club.
The Elk River Rotary Club sponsored Princeton’s district entry into Rotary International, which was celebrating its 75th anniversary that year.
The club had 22 charter members, according to a listing included in the charter night program.
Club leadership had discussed the possibility of dissolving for several years. Past and present club members, including several Princeton Rotary Club presidents, scheduled a Wednesday gathering at the K-Bob Café for a farewell celebration.
Longtime Princeton Rotary member Phil Lingle helped research the club’s history. Forty years ago, when the club started meeting regularly downtown, the meetings were men-only, Lingle recalled.
That changed a few years later when Rotary International finally allowed women to join.
Service and fellowship were always the two primary activities at each Princeton Rotary Club meeting.
Being a part of Rotary International automatically involved the group with programs such as water wells and community health projects worldwide.
“We always looked to helping our own town too,” Lingle said. Over the years the Princeton Club has supported the Boy and Girl Scouts, the Kinship program, and Princeton High School Senior Scholarships. “We helped build a warming house for the community skating rink and a new entrance at Pioneer Park. We hosted high school exchange students and adult exchange groups from around the world.”
Lingle recalled how one female exchange student from the Faroe Islands saw her first tree here in Princeton. When asked what his favorite food was, a Japanese student said, “My [host] Mom’s macaroni and cheese.” Another Japanese student, on a layover at Los Angeles International Airport, saw an advertisement for the opening of the Mall Of America in Minnesota and exclaimed, “I’m going there!”
Over the years, there was always a tug of war among Princeton Rotary Club members on just how much service work or projects the group should attempt.
Many were happy to meet weekly to enjoy a meal together and socialize, but we always eventually put together an annual budget to support various local causes.
The biggest program ever undertaken by Rotary began over 25 years ago, which was to eradicate Polio from the world.
The Polio vaccine had been around for decades and was an afterthought here in the United States, but worldwide millions of children were still affected.
“Since Rotary was present in so many countries we were able to overcome prejudices and fear by using local members to deliver the vaccine,” Lingle recalled.
The eradication effort was scheduled to take a decade, but with the wars in the Middle East and threat of terrorism around the world it has dragged out.
Recently, there have been no new cases of Polio and it appears the world will be rid of the disease for good.
Another worldwide Rotary project has been involvement in KIVA, a microcredit program that gives individuals and small groups in third world countries an affordable loan to create or expand a business.
In 2008 Tim Kavanaugh made possible a grant of $840 from Federated Co-Ops and Land O’ Lakes to the Princeton Rotary Club in order for the club to make modest loans through KIVA.
Members brought the fund up to $1,000, and as of May 2020 loans have been made to 305 entrepreneurs in 56 countries, including the U.S., repaid often in pennies at a time. That $1,000 has generated loans of $13,725 internationally in home-grown businesses.
In 1986, the club partnered with Jackie Hartmen, a Rotary member and director of community education, to bring in Leo Lewis, a Viking football player, to run a youth football camp here in Princeton.
“Little Leo," as he was called, came to several club meetings and offered a summer camp for youth of all ages.
Also on the local level, the Princeton Rotary Club has collaborated with the City of Princeton to create a handicapped-accessible fishing pier on the Rum River in Riverside-Riebe Park.
A grant from Rotary District 5960 helped fund the project.
In 2005 the club contributed more than $1,000 to bring six Guatemalans to Water Project training at the Living Waters University in Oxford, Mississippi.
This project was a shared partnership between Princeton Rotary Club, Occidente Presbytery in the highlands of Guatemala, and the Minnesota Valleys Presbytery.
Training was for installation, maintenance and education in the use of clean water drawn from wells through five churches chosen by Occidente Presbytery.
The Princeton Rotary Club has contributed to other development projects in Guatemala through its Rotary District.