Imlay City Rotary Club members gesture to show just how close Rotary International is to its goal of eradicating polio during their 75th anniversary celebration in 2012.
December 06, 2017IMLAY CITY — It was the year Amelia Earhart disappeared, and the Hindenburg burst into flames.
Millionaire aviator Howard Hughes broke his own transcontinental flight speed record on a trip from Los Angeles to Newark, and the engineering marvel known as the Golden Gate Bridge was officially opened to the public.
Closer to home, Democrat Frank Murphy was the governor of the Great Lakes State, Republican Byron W. Courter represented Lapeer County in the State House.
The year was 1937. Imlay City boasted a population of about 1,450—some of whom decided to become part of an international movement to improve the lives of people in the community, the state, the country, and the world.
The Imlay City Rotary Club is marking its 80th year in existence. A celebration is planned for this evening (Wed., Dec. 6) at the Countryside Banquet Center.
Since the club's inception, dozens of familiar local names have appeared on the list of members.
Carlton Van Wagner, Willard Onyon, Jim Morrice, Al Norlin, Dick Wheeler, Bob Churchill, Spike McKillop, Les Cole, Art Placeway, Jack Schonfeld, Neil Blank, Gary Nolin, Bill Mason, Fr. John Dunn and Gene Coscarelli are among those who got on board early on.
Today—and for the past several years—that list includes John Lengemann, Karl & Sandy Iloncai, Ron Rickard, Randy Jorgensen, Dr. Clif Clendenan, Joyce Nolin, Tom Campbell, Dana Walker, Walt Bargen, Ian Kempf, Dennis Collison, Mike Guerin and many more. Lengemann and Iloncai hold the record when it comes to longest serving members, with Lengemann at 49 years this month and Iloncai celebrating 47 years.
As diverse as the careers and walks of life, all those who call themselves a Rotarian have one thing in common: the desire to give back to the community and beyond.
With the motto "Service Above Self," the club has been involved in funding student scholarships, donating to local food banks, Boy and Girl Scouts, Little League baseball, the Polly Ann Trail, Coats for Kids, Boys and Girls State, Rotary Park, school projects and athletic clubs and field trips, among other causes.
The Rotary Club funded the digital monument sign at the Eastern Michigan State Fairgrounds, the Rotary Clock in downtown Imlay City, and recently helped transform Rotary Park into a haven for toddlers.
In addition, the Imlay City Rotary Club has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to international projects including Rotary's 'Polio Plus' campaign, which has helped eradicate the disease worldwide.
Participating in the Polio Plus initiative is just one of the great things about being an Imlay City Rotarian, says the club's current president Dana Walker.
"Before I joined the club, I would hear people say 'I don't know what Rotary does.' Now that I've been a member for several years, I find it absolutely amazing how much Rotarians do contribute both locally and globally," Walker says. "Knowing that every year our club contributes to the Polio Plus initiative, well, that's what makes being a Rotarian so special. It's the number of people you can positively affect in the community and around the world.
As for the community, Walker says making a difference comes from both financial support and volunteerism.
"Both are very important and it's always so interesting to me to realize 'wow, we're doing this again...whether it's being able to send kids to a leadership conference or volunteering on a project, the Rotary Club makes a huge difference."
Walker says the club is also focused on fellowship within its own parameters.
Though the club meets at noon every Wednesday at Countryside Banquet Center, they'll change that up during months that contain a "fifth Wednesday."
"We'll be hosting an after work gathering at a yet to be determined place," Walker says. "We're going for a much more relaxed atmosphere, a casual meeting to fit people's schedules and open it up more for fellowship."
She says the club's social committee has also been revived, and they intend to plan mystery trips and other social gatherings.
"Our aim is to continue doing our business and volunteering as a club, but also to enjoy each other," Walker says.
Another goal is to continue to spread the word about Rotary.
"We need to continue to make people aware of the club, not to toot our own horn, but so people understand what Rotary does as a whole," Walker says. "Also to add more members to such a worthwhile organization."
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.