LIMA — Led by a desire to serve their community and the world and to build stronger friendships, 12 Lima businessmen met for lunch at the Norval Hotel on Jan. 19, 1915, and decided to organize the Lima Rotary Club.
One month later, on Feb. 23, application was made through our sponsoring Toledo Club for affiliation with the International Association of Rotary Clubs. The Lima Rotary Club received its charter, No. 143, on April 1, 1915, with 34 charter members.
The club’s first president was William H. Moore, sales manager of Gramm Bernstein Truck Company. In less than two years, the club grew to 135 members, making it one of the largest Rotary Clubs in the nation for a city with a population of 50,000. It included practically all of the primary business, professional and industrial leaders of the community.
From the beginning, members were interested civic affairs. The original activity was to sponsor the Boy Scout movement in Lima with the Rotary Club hiring the Scouts’ first chief executive. All expenses were paid by Rotarians until the city’s first Community Chest was organized.
That turned out to be the first of many philanthropic endeavors.
During its 100 year history, the Lima Rotary Club has supported scores of charitable, educational, civic, religious and youth organizations in Lima and Allen County. The club has raised the money through a variety of high profile and entertaining fundraisers. Club’s members also volunteer their time in leadership positions on boards and committees and at community events.
Under the administration of President Henry G. Wemmer from 1916 through 1917, members took part in the civic improvement plans of providing a new water supply and a new reservoir system for Lima. They also were instrumental in bringing about the successful passage of a big bond issue to put the river improvement, water improvement and street paving projects through.
The Lima Rotary Club has always supported disabled children, and in 1917 the Crippled Children’s Committee was formed. Children from West Central Ohio were bough to Lima hospitals for observation, care and treatment. In association with the Lima Visiting Nurses’ Association, Rotarians purchased wheelchairs, braces, and other needed equipment for the children. For nearly 100 years, Lima Rotarians have hosted the Special Needs Christmas Party, which has been attended by as many as 175 disabled children. Peter Hulsken served as Santa for 25 years at the Christmas Party and was so touched by the good work being done by the club that he and his wife Libbey made provisions for stock and securities valued at $40,000 to be left in trust to Lima Rotary to assure the continuance of service to children with disabilities in the community.
Lima Rotarians began ringing bells for the Salvation Army’s Kettle Drive in 1938 and has proudly raised tens of thousands of dollars to help those less fortunate during the holidays. Its donation to the Salvation Army also includes 50 percent of the proceeds from the Rotary Christmas Auction, with the other half of the proceeds going to the Lima Rotary Foundation.
The Rotary Boys Choir was formed in the mid-1960s and consisted of 40 boys, ages 8-16, representing schools throughout the Lima area. The Lima Rotary Club sponsored the choir in the hopes that qualified boys would further their personal development through musical training.
The Lima Rotary Foundation was organized in 1965-1966. It accepts and accrues funds from members, special gifts and fundraisers, then distributes the funds exclusively for educational, charitable, scientific or benevolent purposes. It currently distributes approximately $30,000 each year to deserving organizations.
To contribute to the cultural growth of the Lima community, the Rotary Club constructed the beautiful pavilion in Faurot Park in 1983 in collaboration with the City of Lima and the Council for the Arts. For more than 30 years the pavilion has been the site of free concerts in the park, festivals, family reunions and more.
Because a disability should not prevent people from enjoying nature, the Lima Rotary Club constructed the All People’s Trail in Kendrick Woods in 1987. This .33 mile boardwalk trail through the woods is handicap-accessible and enjoyed by people of all ages.
The Lima Rotary Club’s tastiest event was the rib cook-off which Rotary took over in the mid-1990s and ran through 2012.
In 1990, to celebrate its 75th anniversary, the Lima Rotary Club announced that it would build the Rotary River Walk along the Ottawa River.
The Lima Rotary Club began sponsoring a community Blood Clinic in 1996 at Senior Citizen Services in partnership with Medi-Lab.
In an effort to promote higher education and encourage students to complete their education here at home, the Lima Rotary Club began a scholarship program in 2001.
Every third grader in Allen County receives a dictionary, thanks to the Lima Rotary Club and its Dictionary Distribution, which begin in 2006.
In 2012, Lima Rotarians took on The Next Big Thing. The club was tasked with coming up with a major project to benefit the community and members chose to construct a pavilion along the River Walk in conjunction with the Lima City Schools. Located on the site of the former Lima Senior High, the pavilion is the site of concerts and community events.
The Rotary Club of Lima has been very actively involved in international projects over the years.
Lima Rotarians have been proud to serve in leadership capacities with Rotary on both the district and international levels. Five District Governors have come from the Lima Rotary Club – Harry Poulston (1940-41), Homer E. Reeder (1953-54), Leland W. Tomlinson (1959-60), George T. Kocher (1973-74), Harold G. Schnert (1987-88) and Harrold W. Goodnight (1997-98). In 1942-1943, Harry Poulston distinguished the Lima Club by being selected as Director of Rotary International.
The Lima Rotary Club has hosted five district conferences, bringing hundreds of people into our community for each event.
The Lima Club also has an outstanding record in extending Rotary throughout West Central Ohio. Clubs organized and sponsored by Lima Rotary include: Van Wert in 1920, Ada in 1936, Wapakoneta in 1937 and St. Marys in 1938. In 2015, the first Interact club was formed at the Bath High School, extending Rotary values into the lives of our youth.
As the Lima Rotary Club celebrates its centennial year and we look back on our achievements, we find that very little has changed. We are still a group comprised of Lima/Allen County business and community leaders with a strong desire to better the world, both at home and abroad, we still gather every week for lunch and fellowship, and we still dedicate our time and resources to the Rotary motto – Service Above Self.