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Rotary: Service with a Smile

McHenry County Rotary Clubs gather regularly to continue the traditions of this renowned organization.

Whenever Rotarians gather, good is being done — for the community and worldwide.

McHenry County Rotary Clubs, along with 33,000 clubs globally and more than 1.2 million members, focus on achieving some very tall goals, from combating hunger to improving health.

Each week, these clubs — made up of volunteer service members — meet and plan ways to fulfill the Rotary’s motto of: “Service Above Self.”
There are many opportunities throughout the year for community members to help local Rotaries accomplish their missions, including benefits, charity events and fundraisers.

Becoming a member is, of course, a great way to get involved at a higher level.

A Half-Century-Plus of Service in McHenry
The  Rotary  Club  of  McHenry, founded in 1955, is the oldest in the county. The club has 40 members, most whom reside in McHenry and Johnsburg.

“The Rotary Club of McHenry awards thousands of dollars annually in the form of academic and vocational scholarships,” PR Chairman Thomas Webb said. “We support FISH Food Pantry every year and distribute a semi-trailer of food from the Northern Illinois Food Bank twice per year. We donate thousands of dollars to local charities and not-for-profit human service agencies that have been short-changed by Springfield. Volunteers clean up Boone Creek and Route 120 annually.”

Its big annual events include an annual ham dinner benefit in October; summer barbecue lunches for human services groups; and four annual Texas Holdem Poker Tournaments for International Rotary projects, including literacy programs and eradication of polio worldwide.

In January, a new rotary club in McHenry, the Rotary Club of McHenry – Morning, was launched. “We are looking for business or community leaders that either live or work in the Henry area,” Interim President Jefferson Batt said. “One of our goals is to grow to 20 members (the requirement to charter as an official Rotary club) by mid-April. We are currently at about 15 members and growing quickly. As a new club, we have set our five-year goals to have a club of 50 members, raise $100,000 per year for charity and organize 12 community service projects annually.”

Interested parties can contact Batt at

“Helping Folks in Need” in Cary-Grove
The ’70s kicked off with the establishment of  the  Rotary  Club  of  Cary-Grove. Today, 29 businesspeople and residents from Fox River Grove and Cary are members.

Locally, the club has teamed up with Cary-Grove High School to sponsor the Interact Club, an active youth extension of Rotary. Headed by Dean of Students Jim Kelly, the Interact Club is a significant contributor throughout the local community and beyond.

“On April 10, we will be hosting our annual dinner auction ‘Swing Into Spring,’ which provides funds for all projects,” PR Chairman Phil Horn said. “It is open to the public and donations are appreciated.

“We also host local concerts in the park; support the food pantry; have raised $10,000 in educational scholarships to Cary-Grove students; and sponsor outbound and inbound youth exchanges from foreign countries.”

Internationally, the Cary-Grove club is partners with a Rotary Club in Brazil where it has helped establish a school of the arts for local children in need, Horn added. “In addition, eradicating polio worldwide and providing fresh water supply in foreign countries is a major focus,” he said.

Horn encourages community members to consider becoming a Rotarian. “People should get involved if they want to make a difference,” he said. “Whether you’re career-minded, working from home or retired — if you’re interested in helping folks in need, join Rotary.”

“International Focus, Community Spirit” in Crystal Lake

The  Crystal  Lake  Noon  club was formed in 1963 and is currently 11 members strong. According to President Peggy Chamberlain, it is hosting a big spring Charity Wine Tasting at the Raue on April 11 and encourages community members to attend.

“The event will be hosted by Andy Andresky, owner of 1776 Restaurant in Crystal Lake,” she said. “Hors d’œuvres and more than 80 wine samples will be available. Music will be provided by Jazz on the Square and Voices in Harmony. The $20 tickets are 100 percent charity deductible.

Its other big event, Chamberlain said, is Cow Drop Bingo in August at Lippold Park in Crystal Lake.

In 1989, the noon club sponsored the chartering of the Dawnbreakers to provide an option for members who wished to meet at an earlier time of day.

The Dawnbreakers, which consists of 50 members, provides literacy programs with Crystal Lake Public Library and  scholarships for those seeking to join vocational programs. In addition, it supports NISRA Kite Fly, Coat A Kid annual free coats with Algonquin Township, road clean up, Holiday Family Giving Program, food pantry, Youth Service Bureau, Home of the Sparrow, PADS, Raue Center Children’s Program, MCC Promise Foundation and McHenry County Diaper Bank.

“We also host socials and events that bring us together in fellowship as a club, such as the holiday party, chili and ice cream social, mystery plane trips, fireside chats and more,” President Sue Dobbe said.

As with all clubs, Dawnbreakers is involved internationally, and as part of the International Youth Exchange, hosts one incoming child and up to three outgoing children annually. “Our local club, through our district, supports water wells in Guatemala, clean water programs in Africa, schools in desolate areas, etc.,” Dobbe said.

This February, the Dawnbreakers held its 21st Annual Western Auction at the Holiday Inn. With more than 430 attendees wearing their favorite Western wear, this event raised $1 million for charity. Next year’s auction will be on March 5.

“People Helping People” in Woodstock
Chartered in 1992, Rotary Club of Woodstock  Morning includes 31 members.

“So many of us have been so blessed in life being a part of Rotary gives us the opportunity to give back to our local community and the world,” President elect Timothy Oman said. “What we do through ‘service above self’ not only helps others in need, but allows us to experience true joy through fellowship and service. “Rotary is a family of people helping people,” he added. “We are always looking not opportunities to serve, but for others who would like to join our club and really make a difference in their community.”

The club holds its Annual Great Outdoor Expo in March, which is attended by thousands of visitors of all ages, more than 50 exhibitors and many top-notch seminars and speakers.

“Building Good Will” in Fox Lake/Round Lake

In 1978, Fox Lake Round Lake Rotary Club was founded and today includes 23 members from Fox Lake, Greater Round Lake Area, Johnsburg and Lake Villa.
Its service impacts these communities in a big way, according to Secretary Don Newby.

“Our mission is to build good will and better friendships within the community through our service,” he said. “We make donations to local food pantries, offer scholarships and complete roadside cleanups.”

One major annual event is The George Watson Children’s Christmas Party where 450 to 500 local underprivileged children receive clothing, boots, toys, lunch and a visit from Santa.
In addition to the Christmas party, the Fox Lake Round Lake club hosts a chili cookoff fundraiser, a Fox Lake National Honor Society Spaghetti Dinner and the Round Lake Sailor Christmas Dinner.

“People join the Rotary to get more involved in the community — it’s a way a person can give back to the community,” Newby said.

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