Lynchburg’s Rotarians uphold rich practice of ‘service over self’
On a cold February evening in downtown Chicago in 1905, four business associates gathered for what would be known as the inaugural Rotary club meeting.
Founder Paul Harris wanted a networking club where businessmen could connect with members of his Chicago community. What was intended as a just a local hub, then named the National Association of Rotary Clubs, quickly sprouted into something much greater—far greater than any charter member imagined.
In just a few short years, Rotary evolved into a national networking and community service force, with hundreds of clubs throughout America. And in 1917, with just under 300 established nationwide, Rotary skidded its way to the small city of Lynchburg, Va.
Rotary International now boasts tens of thousands of clubs worldwide. The Rotary Club of Lynchburg and the Rotary Club of Lynchburg-Morning, Lynchburg’s two distinct clubs, have played a transformative role in the fruition of the community, serving in multiple facets of humanitarian aid, street cleanup, and other city improvement projects.
The Rotary Club of Lynchburg is in its 105th year, and the Rotary Club of Lynchburg-Morning was founded in 1987, just two years before women were permitted as members.
More than simply a club for friends to mingle, both clubs are dedicated to community service. Rotary International’s slogan is “Service above Self.”
The Rotary Club of Lynchburg and the Rotary Club of Lynchburg-Morning are responsible for many local delights, one of them being the Skatepark in downtown Lynchburg, which was funded by both clubs and is now maintained and operated by Lynchburg Parks and Recreation. Peaks View Park’s disc golf course is also a product of the clubs’ efforts, with assistance from district matching for funding projects and grants.
The clubs’ humanitarian aid projects cover a wide range of services, all of which can be described on its website. Recently, the Rotary Club of Lynchburg sponsored a Margaritaville Night at the Hillcats baseball game. A percentage of the proceeds went to Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust.
Both clubs have a history of supporting humanitarian aid locally and internationally, such fighting the poliovirus, securing medical equipment access for care facilities in Africa, and raising money to fund the Lynchburg Salvation Army in 1921.
“I love all the clubs in our area,” said Tom Illingworth, an Area Governor, and the Immediate Past President of Rotary Club of Lynchburg. “They do great work in their communities. And having a connection with Rotary can really be beneficial with your career or your personal goals whether it’s within your community or globally.”
Area 5 is home to seven unique Rotary Clubs: Altavista, Amherst, Bedford, Forest, Smith Mountain Lake, Lynchburg, and Lynchburg-Morning.
Both Lynchburg clubs each have more than 40 members and have maintained a strong membership commitment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Rotarians from all career backgrounds and age demographics participate.
“It really is uplifting to be a part of this club as well as meet with people each week who are like-minded,” Harrison said.
The Rotary Club of Lynchburg meets the second and fourth Thursday of each month at Oakwood Country Club. The Rotary Club of Lynchburg-Morning meets every Thursday morning at the Virginian Hotel. Weekly club meetings typically feature a meal and guest speaker from the community.
Recently, members from both clubs worked in conjunction to create Rotaract, a branch of Rotary International that provides opportunities for college students and young professionals to take part in serving their community. Rotaract officially was recognized in June 2021.
“We are looking for people who want to serve their community,” Harrison said. “This organization has done so much worldwide and to alleviate human suffering, and that’s the bigger picture. It really is an interesting, well-run organization full of very motivated people. So, anyone who wants to get involved, we are happy to bring you in and put you right to work.”
To get involved, members of the Lynchburg community are welcome to contact membership chair Tracey Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about the Rotary Club of Lynchburg, or Bethany Harrison at email@example.com to explore the Rotary Club of Lynchburg-Morning.
For more information about the clubs’ histories, visit lynchburgrotary.org.