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Chicago. 1905. Paul Harris organizes the first Rotary club with four friends, rotating meeting sites among the Chicagoans’ five offices. And with the shared desire to make Chicago a little better … Rotary was born.

Eureka. 1969. Members of the Rotary Club of Eureka become the charter members of a newly-formed club in Eureka. And with the shared desire to expand the potential for good works and a better community … the Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka was born.

Fifty years later, we celebrate our birthday: March 22, 1969. A lot has changed in those fifty years. We’ve moved from a six cent stamp to Snapchat … from the Pontiac Firebird to driverless cars … from “Hair” to “Hamilton.” The guiding principles that fuel our club — indeed, all 33,000 Rotary clubs and their 1.2 million members who meet in more than 200 countries — have remained remarkably consistent and are distilled in one enduring motto: Service Above Self.

So, as we celebrate our Golden Jubilee this month, as we plan for our next 50 years … a reminder of who we are. We are librarians, fire fighters, educators. We are engineers, real estate professionals, CPAs. We are dentists, aestheticians, auto dealers. We are entering our vocations, in mid-career, changing jobs, retired. We are women and men, married and not, parents and grandparents, going-to-be parents and never-were parents. We are 30 years old, 50 years old, 70 years old, older. We are left, right, center and Green. We are Christian and Hindu, Muslim and Jewish, Sikh and none of the above.

We are 77 Rotarians who come together for a pair of compelling reasons:

1. We want to make our community better — and we do. For 50 years we have organized, collaborated, funded, provided materials and applied hands-on expertise to support projects that improve lives. From developing the Project Share Life bone marrow registry to building the Hikshari’ Trail birdwatching platform, from spearheading the construction and expansion of St. Joseph Hospital’s Evergreen Lodge to presenting Eureka’s annual Veterans Day program, from providing scholarships for Zoe Barnum High School and College of the Redwoods students to giving dictionaries to third graders and grants to CR Law Enforcement Academy cadets — we engage in our world.

Through that humanitarian engagement, we help those suffering from Lyme Disease. We donate medical supplies, ambulances, clean water devices to Mexican villages. We upgrade and improve park and recreational facilities in Carson and Highland parks and in Eureka soccer fields. We provide books and media collections to the Humboldt County Library. We provide food to hungry children and fragile seniors. We celebrate Eureka’s status as one of the first designated Coast Guard cities by honoring the Coast Guard at our annual Coast Guard Appreciation Dinner. We foster international peace and understanding, health and welfare through our Youth Exchange Program and our Polio Plus support for world-wide polio eradication. And more. Much more. Since 1969 hundreds of Southwest Eureka Rotarians have worked together — realizing need, understanding the possible, applying the will and ability to make real change for the better.

2. The second reason we join and work together for that better world? We genuinely like each other. On a strong and vital foundation of different perspectives, backgrounds, and expertise we come together to build solid friendships. And really, especially in these overheated times in which we live, that is remarkably special.

The Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka. This month we celebrate our history and take pride in beginning our next fifty years as an extraordinary resource for our local, national and international communities. As we head into our sixth decade, we thank the North Coast for nurturing the vision and energy of its Rotarian sons and daughters. And we thank the people of the North Coast for fifty years of generous support for our efforts.

(Interested in joining Rotary? Information: swrotary.org, Facebook, 707-572-4101.)

Eureka resident Cindy Denbo is with the Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka.

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