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Since its beginning in 1919, the Rotary Club of Beloit has been a vital part of the Beloit community.

The year 1919 was to be a fateful year in the history of the world and of the United States.  The Treaty Of Versailles was signed, thus ending the war to end all wars.  That same year, more people died of the flu epidemic than were killed in the war.  White Russian armies fighting to retain the czarist government were routed by the red Communist army commanded by Leon Trotsky.  Benito Mussolini founded a new political party in Italy.  Ghandi began acts of civil disobedience in India.  In the United States the 18th amendment went into effect authorizing prohibition.  The 19th amendment, which would guarantee suffrage to women, was passed by congress and sent to the states for ratification.  The senate failed to ratify the Treaty Of Versailles – 9 votes short of the required two-thirds.  Several bombs were intercepted in the first wave of the United States bombings by the anarchists.  Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer led raids on anarchists and over 2,000 were arrested in New York alone.


            The Green Bay Packers were established in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  That year they played a great game against the Beloit Fairies before being defeated 6-0.  Babe Ruth hit 29 home runs, breaking the previous record of 27.  Jack Dempsey became heavyweight champion by defeating Jess Willard.  Sir Barton became the first Triple Crown winner.


            The American Legion and The League Of Red Cross Societies formed in Paris.


            350,000 steelworkers struck, followed by 400,000 miners 40 days later.  Four million walked off the job for the year.  The average work week was 68.7 hours.


            A & W Root Beer, Eight O’clock Coffee and Felix the Cat were introduced.


            And the most important event of the year was the installation of Thomas C. Hendley as the first president of the newly organized Beloit Rotary Club.


            Time passed and in 1933 the Four Way Test was formulated by Chicago Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor and adopted by Rotary International:


1.      Is it the truth?

2.      Is it fair to all concerned?

3.      Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

4.      Will it be beneficial to all concerned?


The Beloit Rotary Club continued its existence until the middle 1980s as what was known in Rotary circles as a “Checkbook Club”.  This meant that our club did not do projects but was very  generous in supporting Beloit charities with cash.  Remember most of those years were before the Great Society programs and the many other programs that are now available.  The money donated to the various organizations was very significant to the recipients and did much to make Beloit a better place to live.

            In 1985, Rotary International took on the daunting task of eliminating polio in the world.  Americans born in the 30s and 40s remember the scourge of polio.  Fortunately, a vaccine was discovered in the 1950s by Jonas Salk.  In the early 1960s, enough Americans had received the vaccine so that polio was eliminated from the United States.  Shortly thereafter, most of Europe was also polio free.  However, in 1985, 125 countries on five continents had failed to eliminate polio in their country.  Polio claimed approximately 350,000 victims each year.  Think of the challenge of inoculating every child in countries where civil war is the norm, and countries with large numbers of nomadic people, of the massive third world slums, of countries without transportation systems, and the difficulty of keeping the vaccine refrigerated when there is no electricity.


In 1986, past club president, Dr. William Freeman, chaired a very successful polio plus program for our club as many members made generous cash contributions to Rotary International to assist in the eradication of polio.


In 1987 president Clyde Boutelle and the Rotary Board extended invitations to seven Beloit women to become members and all accepted.


Subsequently the Stateline Literacy Council was able to move its operations into the basement of the Beloit Library.  It was a substantial improvement over their old quarters, but it was dark and dreary.  A group of our members came up with the idea of painting the basement for the Council.  Ed Grutzner headed up a group of Rotarians who obtained paint and did the physical job of painting the basement, resulting in a 100% improvement of the Literacy Council’s office.


On May 6, 1992, the Beloit Rotary Club pledged $200,000.00 for construction of this building, partnering with the City of Beloit.  It was to be the centerpiece in development of the River Front Area.


Once the pledge was made, the question became “How do we obtain the $200,000.00?”  Tom Finley was the primary person involved with this challenge.  For many years, a Grand Prix Go Cart Race was sponsored by the club which involved an unbelievable amount of hands on work.  Tom and the club members were successful in reaching our goal of paying the $200,000.00 pledge.


Our club has continued to support Paul’s Computer Institute in Bamenda, Cameroon, West Africa.  It is interesting to note that assisting Paul’s Computer Institute was one of our many projects voted on by the club and it came in 7th place.  However, Terry Leahy thought it was a good project and single handedly brought it before the club, other clubs, the district and Rotary International.  Paul’s Computer Institute (PCI) was founded by Paul Mickelson, a retired Beloit firefighter who joined the Peace Corps.  Paul traveled to Bamenda, realized the economic plight of its people, and nearly lost his life during political unrest.  His early endeavors included obtaining school books and library books from Beloiters for Bamenda’s citizens.  Later on he envisioned computer literacy as a method of fostering economic growth in the community.  From all sources more than $1.6 million has been raised for Paul’s Computer Institute.  Members Jerry Klobucar and Gene Van Galder have been active participants in the continued success of Paul’s Computer Institute, including traveling to Bamenda for hands-on efforts.


Since 1985, Rotary International has been continuing its work to eradicate polio.  They had been very successful, but had not completely eradicated it.  A final effort was mounted in 2002 and local clubs were again asked to contribute money for the final effort.  The Bill and Martha Gates Foundation contributed a matching fund of $25 million.  The local effort was headed by Sam Paddock and resulted in members contributing over $10,000 and the club contributing $1,650.00.  Polio is not completely eradicated but the number of new cases has been as low as nine in one year.  The net result has been that over 6 million children have not been afflicted with polio – an outstanding boon to the children of the world.


In the 2001-2002 Rotary year, Beloit elected its first woman president, Ann Sitrick.  In Barcelona, Spain, at the International Convention, 60 presidents were honored by being chosen as the best chapter presidents of the 31,000 plus local chapter presidents.  They were honored and their names were listed in the daily newspaper at the convention.  Ann’s name appeared near the bottom of the list but only because the list was alphabetical. 


In 1999, Kids Against Hunger was established by a Minnesota man, who had volunteered on a medical mission to Honduras.  Working with companies such as Cargill, Pillsbury, General Mills and Archer Daniels Midland, he formulated a food mix that would serve the nutritional needs of malnourished children.  There are 40 satellite networks packaging the mix.  Beloit Rotary, led by John Wong, joined the Rotary Clubs Of Janesville Morning And Noon and Edgerton  to join “Kids Against Hunger.”  Their ingredients are supplied by Kids Against Hunger.  The Rotary Club raises money to buy the food mix from KAH Headquarters.  Kandu Industries has volunteered their packaging areas and local volunteers package the mix.  In the first year of operation, they packaged 150,000 meals.  They have distributed 50,000 to Rock county food pantries and 7,128 meals to flood stricken Cedar Rapids.  Working with Paul Mickelson they have supplied more than 20,000 meals to Bamenda, Cameroon.  Paul personally saw that they were delivered to shelters with empty shelves.  The goal for next year is to obtain contributions to increase the number of packaged meals to 200,000.