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Posted: April 1, 2018

Rotary: how it all began

Rotary Moment No. 1

By Colin J. Campbell

The Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club was chartered in March of 1997, 75 years after the Cranbrook Rotary Club was chartered in March of 1922.

As the breakfast club has grown in membership in recent years educating new members on the history of Rotary has been a priority. To give everyone a one-minute refresher we have started to publish the Rotary Moment in the club bulletin weekly. Thanks to Ian and Carrie at e-KNOW we are now going to share these articles with everyone. Hopefully this will be the first of many.

I doubt that any of us could imagine what Chicago was like in 1900 when a young newly called to the bar lawyer opened his practice. Paul Harris was a farm boy from Vermont who had travelled the world and decided that practicing law in the mid-west city of Chicago was an opportunity. We know from how his career turned out that he was a man of honour and integrity, something that would have probably put him a cut above in raucous Chicago.

The problem was that lawyers could not advertise, the only way to build a practice was by referral.  Harris came up with the idea of organizing a group of businessmen who would meet regularly to help each other develop new business. They met in each other’s offices and rotated the meeting locations, thus the name Rotary. That was in February of 1905 and the reason that Rotarians around the world celebrate Rotary day on the 23rd of February.

This small group of businessmen soon realized that they needed other reasons to meet and from that came the idea of Service Above Self. By being of service to others they would benefit themselves. A concept as old as time however in many cities of North America at the dawn of the 20th Century the need was acute, and those early Rotarians became the pioneers of service that continues today.

The ideals that the four founders of Rotary set down appealed to businessmen everywhere, the reason why Rotary grew from one club in Chicago to clubs across the United States and Canada in a few short years. By 1910 there were 16 clubs, the first convention was held in Chicago that year. By 1917 there were over 300 Rotary Clubs. by 1937 the number had grown to over four thousand.

The first non-US club was chartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1912, making Rotary International. Growth continued in Canada and further afield into Great Britain and Ireland.

Paul Harris, realizing the importance of what Rotary stood for and dedicated the rest of his life to expanding Rotary throughout the world.

Colin J Campbell, CLU, CH.F.C. is managing partner of Guidance Planning Strategies Ltd. in Cranbrook. An independent wealth management firm, specializing in helping families and entrepreneurs create wealth and keeping it for generations. He has been a Rotarian for 40 years and is a Charter and Founding Member of the Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club.

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