Winchester Rotary Club History (1996 – 2006)


The decade of the Winchester Rotary Club, 1996-2006, was inaugurated by the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the club. A special 32-page supplement to the Winchester Star gave a detailed history of Rotary in Winchester and was a collector’s item once it appeared. A formal dinner was held in November at The Shenandoah Country Club in Warren County with District Governor Thomas Todd and his wife in attendance. RI Director Ed Hatcher was also present and Past District Governor Charles E. Laine addressed the crowd. Mike Foreman, Chair of the 75th Anniversary Committee gave a whimsical and nostalgic review of the Winchester club and the highlight of the evening was the awarding of four Paul Harris Fellowships to Harry K. Benham, Thomas T. Byrd, and R. William Bayliss, III, past presidents of the club and to Clifton L. “Kip” Rutherford the current president. $15,000 was given to the Rotary Student Scholarship Fund and $7500 to Habitat for Humanity. With such an auspicious beginning, it is not surprising that the ensuing years have been among the most successful of the Winchester club.

In 1996, the Apple Harvest Festival raised over $28,000 and with proceeds from the annual beef barbeque and the Apple Blossom programs sales, the Club was able to award over $40,000 to various community organizations and charities. The Club also entered the modern age by setting up a website which allowed Winchester Rotary news to be shared around the world and for the weekly Cogwheel newsletter to be accessed on-line. The Club’s first Interact Club in the area was chartered at Handley High School, a most worthy project during the club’s 75th year.

During this anniversary year, the Club hosted an Australian Friendship Exchange, sent Hartley Schearer, a local teacher to France as a part of Group Study Exchange, participated in the District R.E.A.D. project for the Philippines and was recognized as a Skelton Scholarship contributor and received a Presidential Citation for Balanced Club at the district Conference at the Homestead.

During each of the years following the 75th anniversary year, traditional activities were continued and new projects supported. The Club hosted a Group-Study Team from India in 1999 and a team from Germany visited in 2001. Nick Nerangis was a team leader for a Group Study Exchange to the Cayman Islands. In one three year period during this period, over $15000 was given to the Polio Plus project of Rotary International.

For many years, the major fundraiser for the Winchester Rotary Club was the Beef Barbeque. Club members sold tickets and the “Pit Crew”, using a secret sauce, prepared the beef at the barbeque pit at the Rotary Shelter in Jim Barnett Park. In 1974, a non-Rotarian, John Latham, proposed for the club to host an annual Apple Harvest Arts and Craft Festival. The first even was held in 1975 under the leadership of Dick Demorest and a profit of $15,000 was realized. In a few short years, the Festival grew in size and popularity and profits soon reached $25,000 or more. This enabled the Club to fund some major capital or operational needs for community organizations such as The Evans Children’s Home and the Fremont Day Nursery. In addition, 10% of the profits from the festival were presented to the Student Loan and Scholarship Committee and this helped to increase the corpus of these funds and to help more area students finance their high education.

In 2001, Rotarian Dave Kollar presented an idea to the Board to initiate an additional fundraiser. He had seen an event in the Richmond area and he was convinced the Winchester Rotary Club could hold a similar event that would not require as much manpower but would yield a large amount of money that could be used to assist some community agency or project that needed a substantial donation. The event was called “Kaleidoscope” and the first was held in 2001. A formal dinner was held at The Shenandoah Country Club, and there was a silent auction for many excellent quality products and service, all of which were donated. The highlight of the evening came with ticket holders being eligible for various cash prizes as their number was drawn, and for the grand prize, a new automobile. Over $40,000 was raised the first year and the amount has increased in each subsequent year with over $70,000 being raised in 2006. The proceeds have gone to Our Health, 2002, The Museum of The Shenandoah Valley, 2003, the Shelter for Abused Women, 2004, The Fremont Street Day Nursery, 2005, and The Youth Development Center, 2006. Over a quarter of a million dollars has been distributed.

During each of the years, the club has continued traditional events such as the Family Picnic in August at The Rotary Shelter with the special “Charlie Bish barbeque sauce. The picnic, chaired by Donald Stewart, a member of the club for 55 years and with 55 years of perfect attendance is a delight for all members. Two “Shrimp Feeds” at The Izaak Walton Park have been held in June and September with “Doc” Madagan and “The Fun Bunch” cooking and serving the meal with ease and a smile. (They pride themselves that they never have a meeting.) A barbeque for the kids at Camp Fantastic in August inspires the Pit Crew more than the campers. The ringing the Salvation Army Bell each December, and hosting the residents of the Evans Home at Christmas have made a perfect ending for each calendar year of the decade. We continue to sponsor one bloodmobile drive each year, and in 2005, the Club celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Camp Fantastic, a camp for children with cancer begun by Rotarian Tom Baker, by having “The Pit Crew” prepare the famous Rotary Chicken barbeque for the campers, and the staff from National Institute and their guests. In recent years a 10K race has been held and also a golf tournament has been added, not to raise money but to add to the enjoyment of club members and the general public.

Each spring has brought Rotary’s participation with the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival with Rotary members providing the leadership in most areas of the world-famous event. A float entered in the Grand Feature Parade has won an award in almost every year and has afforded an opportunity for children and grandchildren of Rotary members to wave to thousands. Many of the Apple Blossom presidents have been Rotarians, as have many of the major committee chairs.

In 2003, The Board decided to abandoned the annual Beef Barbeque and to institute an event called “Summerfest.” A chicken barbeque meal was prepared by “The Pit Crew” and entertainment for children and various music groups provided entertainment for all. The Board has suspended the event for 2006, with a study to be undertaken as to ways to improve and expand the event.

The Winchester Club has taken advantage of several District programs and has been able to name Rotarians Don Stewart and Peter Schmidt as Skelton Fellows. Points have been awarded to the District for matching funds from RI that has enabled Rotary District 7570 to more than double the money available for Foundation work. During the presidencies of Tuck White, Bill Huehn and Irv Shendow, a concentrated effort to increase the number of Sustainers and Benefactors to RI was undertaken with truly outstanding success. The increased contributions enabled the club to use points to contribute half of the $1000 Paul Harris donation and 26 Paul Harris Fellowships were awarded during the 2005-06 Rotary year with 5 Rotarians being multiple Paul Harris Fellow recipients. Other Paul Harris Fellowships were presented to 9 other members to bring the total of Paul Harris Fellows for the year to 35.

The current 2005-06 Rotary year has been a most exciting and successful year. During September President Irvin Shendow challenged the club members to contribute $100 each for Hurricane Katrina Relief and $16,300 was raised within two weeks. Dictionaries were bought and distributed to all 3rd graders in all the area schools including Winchester Public Schools, Frederick County Public Schools and all the private schools. In addition to the $55,000 contributed to The Youth Development Center, the Club gave $7500 to establish a dental clinic in Belize, $5000 to Club Net for Costa Rica, and $2000 to provide new housing in Jamaica. Membership has increased by 13% and the club is sponsoring and establishing a new “downtown” club that is named The Rotary Club of Winchester’s Latest.

For many years, the Winchester Rotary Club had a policy that club members would be recognized and honored for outstanding service by the Club awarding the Paul Harris Fellowships. The awards were presented to those the board decided had made outstanding contributions to Rotary, to their respective professions or businesses and to the community. With the decision to increase the number of Paul Harris Fellows in the Winchester club, the Board, in 2005, created the Distinguished Service Award and the first were presented to all club members who had been presented their Paul Harris Fellowships by the club. Over 30 were presented at the annual awards social held in November and future awards will be made to Winchester Rotarians who have given significant service to the club, to their profession or business and to the community.

The Rotary year for 2005-2006 comes to a close with the news that Winchester Rotarian Byron Brill will serve as District Governor for Rotary District 7570 during the 2007-2008 year. Byron will be the 3rd District Governor to come from the Winchester Rotary Club in the club’s 85-year history and the members of the club are confident that he will be a truly great governor as he has been one of our most distinguished Rotarians. His entire life reflects the Rotary motto of Service Above Self. The Club salutes Byron and pledges its support to him as he endeavors to lead the District to continued growth and success.