Rotary Club of Traverse City Celebrates Centennial

In honor of the Rotary Club of Traverse City hitting its 100th anniversary this year, we asked Dale Chilcote, centennial anniversary chair, to tell us about the club’s journey. Chilcote has been a Rotary member since 2004 and served as the club’s president from 2015–2016.

What does it mean to be a Rotarian?

As a Rotarian, you belong to one of the largest and most respected nonprofit service organizations in the world. Rotary International has 1.2 million members in more than 34,000 clubs, all of which follow the motto of “service above self.” Being a Rotarian is one of the most rewarding opportunities on the planet, but it’s also a commitment. It’s a commitment of your time to attend weekly meetings and serve on one or more of our nearly 50 committees. It’s providing financial support to club activities in the community and around the world. It’s a commitment to be engaged in the club, embrace our motto of service above self and also follow the “four-way test” in all interactions as an individual, a business owner/operator and a community leader.

The four-way test of the things we think, say or do:

  • Is it the truth?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build good will and better friendships?
  • Is it beneficial to all concerned?

The more you give to Rotary, the more you will get out of it.

What are some of the projects and accomplishments (local and international) that you’re most proud of?

We have so many committees and projects in our club and almost every one of them provides a service or financial support to those in need. Personally, the project that stands out to me is not the biggest, or the most lucrative, but it allows for face-to-face interaction with the recipient. It’s the Christmas Basket project. Every year, we ask our members to donate money to help families in need, and the members step up year after year donating $5,000–$6,000 cash.

Also during this time, we contact nearly every church, school and social service organization in the area. We ask for suggestions of families that are in need during the holiday season. The “sponsor” has to fill out an application that explains the family circumstances and why they should receive a Christmas Basket. These applications come back to the committee and we review every story and application to determine if they qualify for the basket. Once all applications are reviewed, we assign new Rotarians that have been in the club for under one year to contact the family, find out what they need and then we give the Rotarian money to go shop for the family. Winter attire and food are always at the top of the list to assure the families are ready for winter and do not go hungry. Once the shopping is done, the Rotarian will drop off the wrapped gifts directly to those in need. It’s pretty amazing to show up with presents and see the kids peeking around the corner to see what we are bringing them. It’s truly a heart-warming experience.

What is the club currently working on, and how has COVID-19 impacted that work?

During the COVID restrictions, we are not meeting as a group, but we are meeting on Zoom every Tuesday. Many of the club’s committees and projects will continue as planned as long as they can be completed within the state restrictions.

For more than a year, many Rotarians have been working on the Club’s 100-year anniversary on May 1, 2020, and the Annual Rotary Show, which was scheduled for April 30–May 2 at the beautiful and historic City Opera House. Unfortunately, those plans had to be canceled due to COVID. The proceeds from the Rotary Show go directly to our Good Works Committee, which provides grants up to $5,000 to nonprofit organizations in the five-county area. Due to the generosity of our members and local businesses that purchased ads in our show program, we will still be able to provide some grants without having the Rotary Show.

To commemorate our Club’s 100-year anniversary, we donated $1 million to the Downtown Development Authority to purchase a lot in downtown Traverse City to develop a civic area for the public to enjoy—Rotary Square. Although we had hoped to have a groundbreaking ceremony on or around the 100th anniversary on May 1, we were unable to make that happen. The DDA is working diligently to keep this project moving forward. Stay tuned.

Looking ahead, what are some of the club’s goals for the future?

I would say, continuing what we have done for the past 100 years—support the community in every way we can, pulling resources together to make a difference, collaboration with other organizations and service above self!

How can residents become involved with Rotary Club of Traverse City or support your causes?

The Rotary Club of TC is always looking for new members that embrace doing things for others and the community. Membership information can be found on our website at traversecityrotary.org. Anyone can make a financial donation to the Club and we will make your money work with ours to do good work in the community.

For more information on the Rotary Club of Traverse City, view the club’s centennial video. 

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