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Celebrating 100 Years of Rotary

Herndon Rotary Club celebrates international organization's 100-year anniversary with 52 local groups.

In the spirit of festivity, the Herndon Rotary Club joined with 52 local Rotary clubs to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the International Rotary Club Feb. 23.

First initiated in 1905 in Chicago by attorney Paul P. Harris, Rotary quickly became a popular forum for business professionals to meet and discuss ways to help the community.

By 1921 clubs had formed on six continents, resulting in a name change to Rotary International.

Currently, there are 1.2 million business and professional leaders providing humanitarian services, encouraging high ethical standards in all vocations and helping to build good will and peace through 31,000 Rotary clubs around the world.

At the local level, Rotary was first introduced in Herndon in 1939 through the sponsorship of Leesburg, Arlington and Fairfax clubs.

Since then, the group has grown and aimed to uphold the organization's motto, "Service Above Self."

Pat Williams, former president of the Rotary, said that although it is local, Herndon Rotary joins other clubs in the world to uphold the group’s primary focus, providing higher education scholarships.

"We give a very big amount of money in scholarship form every year," said the former assistant district governor. "Although we focus on Herndon High School and intermediate schools, we take applications for schools all around — in the vocational area too."

Burt Lamkin, district governor elect — Herndon Rotary’s first member to be district governor — said education is a top priority in the organization across the world.

"The Ambassadorial Scholarships are stronger than that of the Rhodes [scholarship]," he said. "Usually three to five Herndon High School students receive [the scholarship]."

Today contributions to the Rotary Foundation — set up in remembrance after founder Harris’ death — total more than $80 million a year and support everything from humanitarian grants to educational programs.

"We are probably the largest scholarship donator other than the government and federal education grants," said Lamkin. "And unlike student loans, we don’t ask for the money back."

In addition, Lamkin added, the organization made an international service commitment in the 1980s to immunize all of the world’s children against polio, striving to make the world polio free by 2005.

Pat Rhoads, president Herndon Rotary, said this year to honor the 100-year anniversary every group was asked to do things revolving around the number 100 — either a $100 donation or a community service 100-person project, among other options.

"We have decided to donate $100 to the Rwanda Water Project," said Rhoads.

Lamkin explained through the organization’s world service projects, a recent effort has been dedicated to cleaning up the world’s water supplies and making sure clean water is accessible to those who need it.

At the local level, the group has worked to clean Herndon’s streams and neighborhoods during the Spring Street Clean Up, offered scholarships to local students, sponsored ethnic forums and courses for English for Speakers of Other Languages, collected goods during the holiday season to donate to local area homeless shelters and been marshals at the Herndon Festival.

"We try to answer the needs of the town and also support at the national and international levels," said Williams.

The group will also co-sponsor an upcoming event with George Mason University at the school to help educate the community and create a better understanding of the Muslim world and community.

Williams added Herndon Rotary also helped start the Industrial Strength Theatre and the Elden Street Players through a large monetary donation, and plans to offer funding for the proposed cultural arts center once constructed.

Although the Herndon Rotary joined the 52 organizations in its district — District 7610 — to celebrate the anniversary on the actual day, the international celebration will be held in the city where it was founded, Chicago, in June.

"It was wonderful, we should do it more often," said Rhoads about the Feb. 23 celebration.

Williams agreed saying, "fifty-two clubs came together to raise a toast to Rotary."