Rotary Club of West Ottawa celebrates 60 years of community and international support

By Judith van Berkom – 

Dr. A (Bud) McGinnis, originally from Lethbridge, Alberta, moved to St. Catherines, Ontario, as the Director of the Agriculture Research Centre where he became a member of the Rotary Club in 1972, serving for 10 years. When he retired from his position as director, he took a posting to Pakistan for three years. As a Rotarian, he could have joined a Rotary Club in Pakistan, but they met in the evenings and travel was too hazardous.

When he came to Ottawa, he was invited by a local member to join the Rotary Club of West Ottawa. Bud says it is a wonderful way for people who are retired to keep busy and make new acquaintances. As a new retiree in a new city, Bud had no connection with the community until he joined.

(Bud) McGinnis is a longtime member of the Rotary Clubof West Ottawa. Photo by Judith van Berkom

Attendance on a weekly basis is an important aspect of every Rotary Club. If you can’t make it to your club, you are encouraged to attend a meeting in any other club worldwide where you are welcomed as a fellow Rotarian. It’s an ever-expanding network, Bud explains.

The Rotary Club of West Ottawa – part of Rotary International – was the first offspring of the Ottawa Rotary Club, which came into existence in 1916. At least 15 recruits are necessary to start a new club, plus a lot of energy, time and commitment on the part of the host club.

Ottawa now has nine Rotary clubs. They meet across the city at different times and days of the week. Each club is a member of Rotary International, which currently has 1.2 million members, in 35,000 clubs worldwide, volunteering 16 million hours a year.

Considered initially to be an ‘elitist’ club – a requirement for membership was that you had to be the CEO or senior officer of an organization – things have changed quite a bit over the years. In its early years, a person was approached and asked to join, which was considered an honour. Organizations paid the membership because it was a feather in their cap.

Rotary Clubs consisted of male members only until the early 1990s. The Rotary Club of West Ottawa’s first woman member, Mary Rozenberg, joined in 1992. It is no longer necessary to be the senior member of an organization to join.

The Rotary Club of West Ottawa’s projects range from local causes to international campaigns and fundraising is a big aspect of membership. For example, the group provided financial support for a single mother with three children while she underwent two surgeries on her brain and also contributed to the eradication of polio worldwide – to date 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated.

Bud, at 95-years-of-age, is still active in West Ottawa Rotary Club. One of the projects he was involved in from 1993 to 1996 was called the Economics of Staying in School Project (ESIS). It was designed to acquaint students in grades eight and nine with the true costs of living and the importance of completing high school.

Although the West Ottawa Rotary Club is celebrating 60 years – and much has changed during this period – their “four-way test,” a nonpartisan and nonsectarian ethical guide for Rotarians to guide their personal and professional relationships, remains the same:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build good will and better friendships among all concerned?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

These questions embody the principles for action, and if you live by that, says Bud, you’re going to be a pretty decent person.

When asked about the motivating force behind West Ottawa Rotary Club, Bud refers to their credo: “Where the spirit of Rotary is, there is liberty. It sets us free from the bondage of prejudice and bigotry, and binds us all together in ties of understanding and brotherhood.”

West Ottawa Rotary Club’s 60th anniversary event is taking place on April 28. See their website at rcwo.org for more information.

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