- Paul Van Nest
ROTARY’S EARLY SERVICE PROJECTS
Rotarians strive to empower youth, improve health and well-being, promote peace and sustainability, and help support organizations and projects in our community that protect our most vulnerable citizens. These goals are core to Rotary in Kingston and have been since the first club’s inception in 1921.
The first service project of Kingston’s new Rotary Club was an outreach to what was called Kingston’s Relief Committee. A $25 donation was approved by a motion of the Board of Directors on December 5, 1921.
The club then focused on a more specific need: shoeless children. On March 22, 1922, Bert Abernathy was admitted to Rotary with a classification of “Boots Shoes”. On December 29, 1922, the Board reported a total of $237.73 had been collected in the Shoe and Stocking Fund. In those same minutes, “Rotarian Rex offered a special matinee on Saturday, January 6, 1923, for the Shoe and Stocking Fun when the price of admission would be an old pair of shoes”. Children were encouraged to bring their old shoes for free admission as well.
This Shoe and Stocking project was featured in The Rotarian magazine in December 1923. As the magazine stated, “No worthy child will go unshod if the Rotarians can help it.” These piles of shoes were taken to Kingston Penitentiary where incarcerated cobblers were recruited to repair them. The shoes were then distributed to families who could not afford footwear for their children.
Continuing into 1923, the club took an interest in the formation of the Crippled Children’s Society of Frontenac County, the forerunner of today’s Easter Seals. This partnership continued and, in 1947, Rotary assumed responsibility for the Annual Easter Seals Campaign. In 1983, it held the first Easter Seal Telethon on CKWS-TV and raised $33,598. Rotary’s association with Easter Seals remains strong today.
In 1928, Kingston Rotary joined forces with Kiwanis and the YMCA to buy a property on Eagle Lake to open RKY Camp (Rotary, Kiwanis, YMCA). Many of our readers will have fond memories of RKY as a camper, counsellor, parent, or a grandparent… or perhaps as all of them! RKY Camp continues to operate today as both a summer camp and an outdoor education centre from September and June. As many as 3,000 youth access the facilities and programs in a year.
In 1942, Rotary sponsored the Sea Cadet Corps in Kingston by paying $6,000 for their uniforms, rifles and musical instruments. Two years later, the club sponsored two former cadets to attend Royal Roads College: the RMC of the West on Vancouver Island.
The wading pool in Victoria Park – it was a Rotary contribution in 1945. In 1947, another youth-oriented project was the purchase of an orthopaedic table for Hotel Dieu. And Rotary started the first music festival in Kingston in 1950. Yup, that was us. Several of these projects will be featured in future Rotary Reflections.