On April 1, 2020, the Rotary Club of Welland celebrates 100 years of Community and International Service. A dinner was held on a ‘cold and stormy’ night in February 1920, where the first Officers were elected. The Club, established on April 1, 1920 had 25 charter members with lawyer Lynn B. Spencer as the first President. Many of the other original members were stalwarts of the community.
In 1921, Welland Rotarians assisted families in need by providing schoolbooks. A working relationship with the Lions Clubs of Welland and Port Colborne began with a meeting in 1923, and lasted many years, providing medical clinics for disabled children and supporting the children’s ward at the Welland Hospital. Financial support for the Welland Hospital over the years has surpassed $171,000.
During the past 100 years, the Club has actively supported children in need as well as those with disabilities. In the 1930’s this involved a children’s camp at Morgan’s Point, and providing needed medical devices for those with disabilities. In 1964, Welland Rotary was one of the Charter Members of the Niagara Children’s Centre. We continue to support this great organization today. To date, we have provided over $190,000 for capital improvements and equipment not funded by the Provincial government.
Today, we support various local organizations, with children and women in need as our main focus.  Among these is a long-term commitment to provide technology improvements to elementary schools in areas of Welland, within the jurisdiction of three District School Boards. Other local organization initiatives include summer camps, Niagara Nutrition Partners, Rose City Kids and STRIVE Niagara.
Our outreach also extends to the international community. Starting in the 1940s with war relief efforts, Welland Rotary has supported various initiatives such as providing water wells, working with schools in the Philippines, a tourism training centre in Argentina, and an Ecuadorian Eco-Cabin project.
Fundraising has changed drastically over the past 100 years. The first years of fundraising for community service involved street frolics and dances, plays including the 1923 Womanless Wedding, softball games against the Lions Clubs, Rotary ‘Revues’, and New Year’s shows. In 1947, the Club was instrumental in getting the Easter Seals campaign going in Ontario. In later years, garage sales, auto shows, Travelogue Series, Rotary TV Bingo, and Fun Runs all helped the Club assist those in need within the community. The Super Dream Home Draw in 1986, together with the Fonthill Kinsmen, allowed Welland Rotary to donate $90,000 to help develop Tanguay Place. Today, fundraising has evolved to include the annual Rotary TV Auction, Purse Bingo, 50:50 Draws and several social activities (Curling and Bocce) which bring together members of the community.
The Rotary Club of Welland is proud of its service to the local and international communities. We will continue to help improve the lives of women and children in need, wherever that may lead us. We have been honoured to support Rotary International’s End Polio Program, the aim of which is to eradicate polio from the world. We continue to provide support to our youth through Rotary Youth Exchange and leadership programs for teenagers (SLAPSHOT) and young adults (RYLA). Since the 1960’s we have been providing bursaries to deserving students from area high schools. From 1990 to the present, we have recognized outstanding graduates for their academic and community achievements with Rotary Gold Medallions as well. Since 1969, we have provided an opportunity for 58 local youth to experience a year of study in another country while at the same time hosting 49 international students.
Welland Rotarians are proud of our service during the past 100 years and celebrate our success. Our Motto is simple, “Service Above Self”. It is something we should all strive to achieve.