Fort Worth Rotary a vibrant centenarian

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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For 100 years, Fort Worth business leaders have gathered on Fridays for food and friendship, service and networking, education and entertainment. On their lapels is the symbol that connects them -- a small gold and blue wheel that represents high standards for conduct, respect for the truth, compassionate professionalism and hospitality.

Since its founding in February 1913, the Rotary Club of Fort Worth has carved out a reputation for involvement and action through community service designed to make Fort Worth the best community it can be.

Rotarians have been the instruments through which numerous civic achievements played out. From funding one of the city's first public parks, to providing college scholarships, to helping develop such institutions as the Child Study Center, the Tarrant Literacy Coalition and Fort Worth Citizens Organized Against Crime (the precursor of today's SafeCity Commission), Rotarians have used their wisdom, wit and wealth to help create a vibrant and progressive community.

The roots were planted when 12 Fort Worth businessmen determined that their rough-and-tumble city needed some civilizing influences. They liked what they heard from Chicago about a new service club called "Rotary," started by an attorney looking for a way to expand his network beyond the legal profession.

The Rotary Club of Fort Worth was chartered as the 75th chapter in a rapidly expanding movement. Today, Rotary International has more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs. Our Fort Worth club ranks as one of the largest in the world, with more than 420 members. Throughout its history, the club roster has included the community's most influential business and political leaders.

For 100 years, local Rotarians have engaged in noble efforts, large and small.

In an attempt to ease unemployment problems during the Great Depression, Rotarians in 1931 pledged to once a month give a day of work to someone who was unemployed. More than 75 percent of the membership responded and helped more than 320 of their neighbors, more than total club membership.

In 1943-44, the club had a war activities committee that pledged to sell $5 million in war bonds. Rotarians exceeded that in 30 days. By the end of the campaign, the club sold almost $13 million worth of bonds.

The club's largesse continues: Its two foundations have made more than $1.5 million in grants to local charities.

On Friday, club members will celebrate 100 years of service with a musical revue that chronicles Rotary's impact on Cowtown. The next day, they will gather on the banks of the Trinity River for a special groundbreaking.

Rotary Park, the club's centennial gift to Fort Worth, will be a trailhead that connects with an existing trail. Located at the east end of the Phyllis Tilley Memorial Bridge, the park will include a gathering area that features the Rotary Wheel design on the ground surrounded by a seating wall. The monument from the original Rotary Park, built in 1916, will be displayed in the wheel's center.

The Rotary Club of Fort Worth has helped our community survive wars, floods, droughts and depressions. One of the wonderful and enduring characteristics of our members is their sense of camaraderie and humor. We may be part of a worldwide civic organization that puts service above self, but there are few clubs that advance fellowship and goodwill more enthusiastically than this one.

Bob Bolen if a former Fort Worth mayor and Rotary member since 1982.

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