Rotary International is a global network of clubs uniting to take action and create change. The first club was founded in 1905 “so professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships” according to the Rotary International website. Since its Chicago beginnings, it has grown to over 35,000 clubs internationally. The Lowell Rotary Club was chartered in 1935. Over time Rotary “gradually extended to humanitarian service”.
While the Lowell Rotary Club was chartered by a group of businessmen, the first woman member, Linda Zaczek, joined in 1988. The first female president of the local organization came in 1995 with Syvia Taylor filling the role. There are currently approximately 60 members of the group that meets every Wednesday at noon at City Hall.
Local and International Community Projects and Giving Back
Rotary has a long list of causes it supports including ending polio, providing clean water, supporting education, growing local economies, and protecting the environment. The Lowell club has been involved in both local and international endeavors surrounding these efforts.
Mark Mundt has been a member of the Lowell Rotary Club since 2005. He and his wife, Theresa are the club’s first married couple to be members. He joined because of the local and international things he saw the organization involved in. “Rotary is a service organization and that fits well with me,” he says.
One of the local efforts Mundt describes is the Lowell Rotary Club has a Foundational Branch. It was started in 2000 “with the sole purpose of providing scholarships to Lowell graduates”. Over $20,000 is given away each year. To date over 100 scholarships have been given out. Scholarships are with two or four-year renewable scholarships.
Thousands of dollars have been raised to help provide water filters for families in Haiti. Not only have adult Rotarians supported this issue, but elementary students in the Early Act program have also raised funds. Rotary programs in high school, middle school, and elementary school provide younger generations with the opportunity to learn about serving and giving back.
Theresa Mundt became a Rotarian in 2014 after hearing stories from her husband saying, “It seemed to be a perfect fit for me because I like helping people and volunteering.” The couple has been to Haiti three times with Rotary members to help install water filters on the island of LaGonave.
The group’s biennial auction raises funds for a variety of club-sponsored efforts including the Lowell Showboat VI, playground equipment for Richards Park, as well as international projects such as wells in Ethiopia, housing in Honduras, water filters in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and books in South Africa. The 2021 auction was canceled but look for its return on April 22, 2022. More information will be provided after the first of the year.
The following list, provided by Amanda Rogers, President-Elect Next, highlights some of the activities the Lowell Rotary Club does or is involved with throughout the year.
- Highway cleanup quarterly M-21 from Cumberland to Self Serve Lumber
- Organize the driving of golf carts for the Pink Arrow game
- Provide primary volunteers for FROM’s ongoing Repair & Restore program (formerly Neighbor to Neighbor)
- Provide volunteers for Community Clean-Up Day
- Promote World Polio Day
- Sponsor a Santa visit and provide an evening with cookies
- Fund water filters in Haiti
- International service trips with Interact students
- Provide a food booth at the Fallasburg Fall Festival to help fund the Grants Committee
- Provide scholarships to high school students that renew each year for college
- Provide scholarships to high school Interact students to send them to our district’s interact leadership conference
- Frequently collaborate on many community events and happenings
Lowell Rotary Club has a board consisting of 11 members. The group also has several committees that work on various projects. Some of those include Grants, Membership/PR, Youth Services, Service, and Auction. During weekly meetings which take place at noon on Wednesday on the second floor of City Hall, lunch is served, business is taken care of, and a speaker from another organization typically makes a presentation. This is also a good time to network with other members.
With nearly 90 years of existence in Lowell, the local organization has a long history in the community with some current members having joined in the 70s and 80s. One of the longest-serving members is Wendell Christoff whose grandfather was one of the founding charter members.
Alec McPherson has been a Rotarian for 36 years in different clubs as he moved around during his career. He has maintained perfect attendance at weekly meetings during this time. He is a second-generation member as his father joined in 1940 and had 44 years of perfect attendance when he passed away. McPherson, who is part of the Membership/PR Committee, says Rotary is both a social and service club, and the “service above self” motto resonates with him. “Rotary is a very altruistic club, so if you are a giving person [and] want to help local or global causes, it is your link,” he says.
Flat River Outreach Ministries’ Executive Director Wendie Preiss is also on the Membership/PR Committee. She is a fairly new member of the group having joined in 2019. A friend suggested she join in order to expand her network as she was starting her own consulting business at the time. Preiss provides a bit of trivia saying, “Did you know that the future Hill Valley in Back to the Future II shows the Rotary cog? My son points out when we watch the movie that shows the Rotary cog at the city’s entrance. It is a reminder of the global and timeless role of Rotary.”
Throughout the organization, membership has remained steady according to McPherson. Typically 10% of members do not renew their membership and groups see about a 10% increase each year through new membership. He, along with the Membership/PR Committee is hoping to garner new interest in the Lowell group.
Lowell Rotary Club is open to anyone in the community. Those wishing to learn more about the group can speak with a current member or check out the club’s website. A membership application can also be found there. You can also follow the organization’s Facebook page.
Thank you to Rotarians Alec McPherson, Mark and Theresa Mundt, Wendie Preiss, and Amanda Rogers for providing information for this article.