Joliet Rotary celebrates 100 years
By Jan Larsen Correspondent August 10, 2013 9:29PM
Rotarian Tony Contos, retired director of the Joliet Area Historical Museum, chats with Pam Heavens, head of Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living, and Jim Roolf, president of First Midwest Bank in Joliet. | Jan Larsen~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 21, 2013 9:52PM
Four Rotary Clubs were chartered in one day on Aug. 1 back in 1913.
One was in downstate Springfield. Another was in a smallish town called Joliet — its population then was 34,670 — which hadn’t previously qualified because its population didn’t meet criteria until a by-law change.
Joliet, Club No. 78, recently celebrated its centennial with some big news, and a visit by Rotary International President Ron Burton of Norman, Okla.
“Can you imagine what this community would be like today without this No. 78 Rotary Club?” Burton said of the more than 200 people who attended the event at the Holiday Inn.
The answers lay in an impressive video, banners and souvenir program which details Joliet Rotary’s impact, especially since 1984, when the club started its annual raffle.
Donations to community projects since that year tally nearly $1 million. Joliet Rotary also started 10 clubs, and those went on to help form nearly 20 others. A gentleman from Malawi, Africa, was in attendance at the celebration after Joliet gave $7,000 this year alone for a clean water project for that area.
The big news was the Joliet club beat its fundraising goal of $100,000 to mark its 100th year. Funds will be used to create a modular exhibit wall, “A Century of Service,” in the Route 66 Visitors Center in the Joliet Area Historical Museum.
The mood was light-hearted at the celebration, with jokes and ribbing making it appear to be business as usual.
U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-11th, said, “I’ve come all the way from Washington, D.C. where we fail the four-way (integrity) test in just about every way.”
Master of ceremonies Tom Thanas, Joliet’s city manager, was in his element as he listed a dozen bogus proclamations from people ranging from Albert Einstein (who actually was a Rotarian) to the Three Stooges.
“You never know what Tom is going to say or do,” said event co-chair Ed Dollinger, an investment broker.
Dollinger said he joined the club at age 23 and has been a member for 25 years and has learned much from the Rotary motto “Service Above Self.” He said his committee worked on the centennial for 21/2 years and had six subcommittees. One was headed by Pete Nichols, who at 90 seemed superbly qualified to head the history subcommittee. He was Joliet Rotary president in 1978-79.
Rotary started in Chicago in 1905 and has grown to 32,000 clubs in 60 countries with 1.2 million members.
Burton said female membership in Rotary is only 18 percent and needs to grow.
“How much talent in the world has not been tapped?” he said.
His theme is “Engage Rotary, Change the World.”