Ordiary people, working together, can produce extraordinary results – as the Loves Park Rotary Club has been proving for half a century. Discover what makes this dedicated group of community servants special.
Although we don’t always hear about them, ordinary people are accomplishing extraordinary feats every day. Sometimes they band together and multiply their efforts through service clubs such as Rotary International. On March 17, the Loves Park Rotary Club celebrated its 50th anniversary with a dinner at Forest Hills Country Club, the site of its charter meeting on March 17, 1967.
“Our motto of ‘Service Above Self’ is at the heart of all we do and indeed our local community and the world around us has benefitted greatly by all that we have accomplished unselfishly together,” newly retired Loves Park Mayor Darryl Lindberg wrote to Diana Johnson, current chairman of the club. “It’s great to truly make a difference.”
Longtime members contemplated the humanitarian contribution Rotary International has made by helping to nearly eradicate polio. It’s estimated that more than 13 million people are able to walk today, who otherwise would have been paralyzed; more than 1.5 million childhood deaths have been prevented.
One charter member was present at the dinner and stirred some Loves Park nostalgia.
“I had started a new church on North Second Street and was invited some years later to check out a new Rotary Club starting up in Loves Park,” recalled the Rev. Don Lyon. “I remember meetings being held at the Clayton House Motel and at restaurants including Top Hat, Nino’s and The Mayflower.”
Charter members represented Woodward Governor, Barber-Colman, National Can, Smith Oil, Rockford Blacktop, Park State Bank, Forest Hills Country Club, Rockford Clutch and many other local organizations.
The ways in which Loves Park Rotary Club has benefitted the local community through the years are too numerous to list, from building the nautical-themed playground at Martin Park to supporting dozens of non-profit local organizations. It has also sent exchange students to Thailand, France, Hong Kong, India and Germany.
The talents of club members were on display at the 50th anniversary dinner. Club president Diana Johnson recognized various members; Dr. Kris Tumilowicz led the group in song; and retired Harlem School Superintendent John Hurley compiled a summary of the club’s history.
“One of the most remarkable things about this club is that it has been in the forefront of district-level leadership,” says Hurley. “The Club has had four members become District Governors, which is pretty remarkable for a club of fewer than 50 members.” They include the late Stu Smith, Mel Sparlin, Anita Papich and Shannon Scheffel.
Members Stu and Polly Smith also served at the international level.
The club continues to meet on Tuesdays at noon at Loves Park City Hall, just as it has for the past 20 years. Meetings include lunch and a short presentation. Recent speakers include Cathy Barsema of Carpenter’s Place; Bill Childs from Rockford Rivets and Vikki Noe-Eltvedt, executive director of MELD.
Among the service projects with which the club is currently involved:
• Cleanup Day with Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful
• Delivery of Meals on Wheels
• Collection of school supplies for needy Harlem students
• Distribution of Webster Dictionaries to every third grade student in Harlem Schools and Loves Park area parochial schools
• Purchase of new coats and gloves for needy youngsters
• Recruitment of local host families and financial support for Rotary International’s student exchange programs
• Recognition of Harlem High School Students of the Month
• Sponsorship of three to five students to Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Camp each year
• Contribution of gifts for Rosie’s Birthday Club
• Contribution of funds to help support 10 local non-profits including North Suburban Library.
Learn more at lovesparkrotary.com.