submitted by Diane Finch-Oerter
March 2, 2012
District 5630 Rotarians may be in small in numbers, but their service to Rotary and their dedication to humitarian projects continues to soar.
Nebraska Rotary dates back to 1910 when a Lincoln club received the first charter. They subsequently sponsored the third Nebraska club, which was Kearney Rotary, organizing in 1918. At that time Kearney had 15 members and was the only service club of its kind. One of the highlights of the club’s early years was a visit from Chief Justice William Taft, who later became a U.S. president. In 1941, Rotary founding father Paul Harris spoke at Kearney State Teacher’s College. The second club to charter was Hastings Noon in 1919. For 60 years the club met at the historic Hotel Clarke in downtown Hastings. During depression years, they came close to disbanding. Outstanding alum was Harry Russell, club president, DG and a member of RI board.
During the 1920’s many Nebraska clubs developed including Alliance, Grand Island and North Platte. Districts were different in the earlier days. When they chartered in 1920, North Platte was in District 15. In the early years, McCook Rotary was in District 120, which comprised the entire state (with the exception of Scottsbluff County) and included some 55 clubs with an 1884 membership. At that time Frank Hamilton of the McCook club was cited for establishing more clubs than any other man in District 120. They included Indianola, Cambridge, Orleans and Trenton. Another prominent McCook Rotarian was PDG Ben Hormel, who served as an RI director.
District 5630, which had its beginnings in 1937, is now comprised of some 1213 members, representing 34 clubs in a geographic area stemming from Grand Island west to Sidney, north to Valentine and south to McCook. Currently the largest club is North Platte Noon with 112 members and the smallest club is Kearney Rotary on the Bricks with 10 members. Even with only a few members Bricks Rotary acquired a grant to help build an Ag exhibit at the Kearney Area Children’s Museum. Other small clubs like Curtis & N.P. Sunrise helped finance computers for a girl’s school in India, while Alma shipped used textbooks abroad.
In past years, our clubs have sent Sun Ovens to Central America and drilling machines to South America. Clubs have gone together to help fund water projects in Third World Countries and provide humanitarian efforts in Africa. The District supported the Shelter Box program, donating $100,000, with C.J. Rezac of Grant Rotary raising significant amounts.
Locally, St. Paul Rotary helped build a new library and fund a program to send WWII vets to Washington D.C. Arnold Rotary built park facilities while Chadron helped establish the Fur Trading Museum. Service to others is exemplified by District volunteers such as Dave Fowler of Ogallala and Deb McCaslin of Broken Bow, who worked tirelessly in the “Alliance for Smiles” program and PDG Bill Ballou, the only Rotarian in our District to receive the RI “Service Above Self” award, who volunteered in the “Children of the Dump” program
Rotarians in District 5630 contributed $160,000 to the Rotary Foundation in 2011. Top club in giving was Kearney Noon. One of the largest collections to the Foundation was in 2004-2005 when PDG Ken Gnadt introduced the raffle and contributions totaled $129,000. Minden Rotary became the fourth All-Paul Harris Fellow Club in the world in 1997. The Minden Club and PDG Marcie Schmidt were the first major donors, first bequest and first annuity in the District. All Rotarians in the District have been generous in their giving to the Foundation, rather big or small.
“If we all have the fortitude to see this effort through to the end, then we will eradicate polio.”
— Bill Gates, cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Contributions to the PolioPlus Program have soared in recent years. Total contributions from Jan, 1999-February 20, 2012 were $330,727. North Platte Noon Rotary contributed $60,857.
The District RYLA, introduced by PDG Ken Wehrman, continues to thrive and now is in its third year as a Co-Ed camp. The newest of our growing Interact clubs is Kimball with some 40 members. Kearney clubs now have an Interact, Rotaract and Founding Club.
Membership in our District is a constant challenge. Recently Rushville, Chadron and Alliance competed in a six-month contest with Rushville the winner. The District has had its ups and downs in membership. In 2002-03 at the Brisbane, Australia convention District 5630 was named one of the top 50 Districts in the world in membership growth. It also won the top award in Zone membership that year.
New programs spell membership growth. Visioning sessions that help clubs with short and long term planning have been conducted at several District clubs, with more scheduled, according to DG Ron.
Since Kearney Rotary was the first club in the District, it is noteworthy that current District Governor Ron Bazata of the Kearney Club be at the helm during our District Conference in April 2012.
This history of District 5630 does not stand still. This is evidenced in the Victorian clock donated by N.P. Rotary that stands at the foot of the North Platte overpass. Emblazoned with the Rotary emblem, the clock signifies that time marches on, as do the accomplishments of District 5630.