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  • Paul Van Nest

THE CHANGING FACE OF ROTARY IN KINGSTON

From its beginnings in 1921, Rotary in Kingston has continued to evolve its focus on service in the community and fellowship for its members. Weekly Rotary meetings are a part of a Rotarian’s life and these too have changed over the years to accommodate the schedules and priorities of the membership. Most meetings typically involve a meal or a drink, a guest speaker, club business, and updates on members’ daily lives. Meetings usually wrap up with a fines master looking to fill a club’s coffers by levying fines - all in good fun.


For the Rotary Club of Kingston, meetings have always been held weekly at noon hour. This was standard from the early days because bosses could take the time off work over lunch. By the 1960s, it was clear that many potential Rotarians could not take time off during the day. As a result, Kingston Rotarians decided to start a second Rotary club which would meet in the evenings. Led by Rotarians Bruce Jackson and Bill Westlake, the Kingston-Frontenac Club was formed on February 23, 1966. Those meetings began at 6 p.m. and were held initially at Prokops Steak House on Bath Road.

Over the following years, Rotarians from both clubs continued to review their membership demographics and realized that they were not attracting younger business professionals to join. Lunch and dinner meetings were already available so how about breakfast? The Cataraqui-Kingston Rotary Club was formed in 1985 under the guiding hands of John Holland and Fred Richmond. This club continues to meet from 7:15 to 8:30 a.m.


Of course, membership at all three clubs changed completely in the late 1980s when women were finally admitted to Rotary. That chapter of Rotary in Kingston will be featured in an upcoming Reflection.


Also, in the late 1980s, Rotary initiated Probus, which was a social club for retirees. The first was a men-only club but, in the 1990s, a women-only Probus Club was sponsored, followed soon by a Combined Probus Club. All three thrived for many years and, as of this date, two still continue: the Women’s and Combined Probus Clubs.


Moving well into the 2000s, Rotary in Kingston turned yet another page, introducing the concept of a Satellite Rotary Club. The Cataraqui-Kingston Club sponsored one in downtown Kingston, led by Rotarians Dave Hallett, David Young, and later Keith McWhirter. Starting in July 2011, they met at the RCHA Club on Mondays at 5:15 p.m. for a drink. With their youth, energy, skills, and commitment, they undertook many smaller service projects and continue to make their mark. By 2014, they initiated steps towards becoming a full-fledged Rotary club and, with their numbers and the support of Kingston Rotarians, they did. The Waterfront Rotary Club was chartered on April 17, 2015.


Today, over 150 Rotarians are members of the four Rotary Clubs in Kingston. And this says nothing about Kingston’s Rotaract and Interact clubs, the subject of future Reflections. For more information about the clubs, meetings, membership and events, check out rotaryinkingston.cool.

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