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Brief histories of the "First 100" Clubs

Rotary Club of Sacramento 97

Rotary International District 5180

The Rotary Club of Sacramento, organized August 20, 1913, and chartered February 1, 1914, is one of the oldest service groups in the Sacramento region.  Throughout its history, the club has maintained an impressive commitment to camaraderie among its membership and service to the community. 

As recorded in F. Melvyn Lawson’s book A Saga of Service, Rotary Club of Sacramento, “Rotary is a twentieth century movement, and has experienced phenomenal growth within the memory of a single generation.  Paul Percival Harris, a young Chicago attorney, sought to broaden his acquaintances in order to counteract his loneliness in a big city, and to know more about men who were engaged in other types of business.  He, therefore, met with three close friends in February 1905, and propounded his concept of a club composed of proprietors of business.  From this session, and subsequent meetings, Rotary was born.” 

During its first few years, the club emphasized many opportunities for social interaction, attendance at meetings, and increasing membership.  One of its first charitable works was a “books for servicemen” drive and support of a war relief group during World War I.  As the war drew to a close, the club quickly expanded its activities to increased civic efforts for social change and more support of community causes, by giving to the local orphanage and joining the roll call of the American Red Cross.  During the early 1920’s, the club was particularly instrumental in establishing the Boy Scouts of America program in Sacramento. In 1922, the Club started Easter Seals, and governed it through 1934. 

In 1922 the club also made a commitment to the cause of orthopedically impaired children a strong focus that continues today.  In the beginning, the club funded the cost of orthopedic and hospital equipment to assist sixty young people who needed surgery in order to attend public schools.  Now, the club sponsors the annual Bert Chappell Golf Tournament in order to provide significant funding for the purchase of equipment and teaching aids for orthopedically handicapped programs in Sacramento public schools.  The genesis of this program provided a great deal of publicity for the fledgling club, leading to a flood of requests for funds from many community causes and a new club policy in 1924 to confine charitable giving to the area of children’s welfare. 

Throughout the lean years of the Great Depression and the turbulent time of World War II, the club continued its commitment to its membership and maintained its support of children’s charities, adding to its list the Camp Fire Girls, and also supported the USO and the founding of the Sacramento Blood Bank in cooperation with Sutter Hospital.  After the war, the club was able to more liberally support charities, lending new support to the Girl Scouts, St. Patrick’s Home, and Sacramento Cancer Society, among others.                                            

The affluent 1950’s were met with renewed action on the part of the club.  They received national recognition for starting the Sacramento Toy Lending Library and enlarged its Charity Committee, sponsoring student scholarships to attend Model United Nations Conference, supporting the construction of Fairytale Town, and helping the Sacramento Police and Fire Department Widows and Orphans Fund.  As the decade concluded, the club continued to expand its charitable reach with support for the Active 20/30 Club, Sacramento Receiving Home, and scholarships for students to study abroad. 

The club’s now established routine of meetings, socials with one another and neighboring clubs, and charitable giving to established causes and new ones like the Sacramento Zoo, Salvation Army, and the Sacramento YMCA continued through the 1960’s.  As in the 30’s and 40’s, the national picture came into sharp focus at home when the club elected its first non-white member in June of 1966, opening the door to men of all racial backgrounds.  Twenty-one years later, in 1987, the club accepted its first woman member.  This milestone achieved, regular activities continued throughout the era, with major projects of helping to construct the Sacramento County Bicycle Trail along the American River and establishing the Sacramento Camellia Festival. 

The 1970’s brought continued support for school-based sports and music programs, funds for foreign hospitals, the Sacramento Symphony, HIS Farm, Crocker Art Museum, and launching of the Sacramento History Museum.  As the club reached into the 1980’s, it had virtually helped to give life and breath to the spirit of Sacramento.  The club had dedicated itself to meeting the recreational, cultural, health, educational, and humanitarian needs of the city for so many years, it was impossible to imagine Sacramento without the Rotary Club of Sacramento.  Throughout the past fifteen years, the club’s support of established and emerging organizations and issues has continued, with contributions to a multitude of area non-profit organizations primarily serving children. 

Over the years, club members have also become involved with charities through volunteering such as Sacramento’s “Paint the Town” project, by spending a Saturday painting, repairing, and cleaning the homes and yards of folks in need.  The biggest time commitment for Rotarian is perhaps their service on one or more of the one hundred committees that take responsibility for various Rotary functions, from major fund raising events to themed meetings like Senior Citizens Day, when members buy seniors lunches and provide entertainment. 

At present, the club continues much of the charitable involvement begun by its former leaders and members.  The club sends high school students to a foreign country, and in exchange hosts incoming students in members’ homes.  Bids for Kids, an annual dinner and auction, has been in operation since 1984.  This event nets an average of $70,000 to $85,000 per year, and has netted well over one million dollars, all for children’s causes.     

The club also maintains nearly $2 million in endowment fund investments; trustees monitor the fund’s investments and each year 5% of the value of the investments, along with other monies raised during the year, is used for charitable donations. 

Since it’s beginning, the club has involved itself in the workings of Rotary International, by sending delegates to district and international annual meetings and supporting international programs.  One such program was Polio Plus, which had the goal of eradicating polio worldwide by immunizing everyone who had access to a medical facility of any kind.  The club contributed over $150,000 to this cause. 

Portions of this article reprinted by permission of the author, Kimberly Embree, and River Oak Center for Children in an article that first appeared in the Summer 1995 issue of River Oak’s Hand in Hand donor/volunteer newsletter.   

"Golden State" First 100 Clubs

San Francisco 2 

Oakland 3   

LA5 

San Diego 33

Stockton 92

Sacramento 97

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