By Sue Tiffin
Walking around downtown Minden is like taking a tour of the community contributions of Minden Rotary.
Some are easy to identify – Rotary Park, for one. Others might not have Rotary before their name, but have made an incredible impact on the town and the people who live here, including $220,000 for the original construction of Minden’s arena, $150,000 for the building of Minden hospital, $30,000 to Five Counties Children’s Centre, and $25,000 for an annual high school scholarship fund. Minden’s tennis courts, the stage and equipment at Archie Stouffer Elementary School, the Agnes Jamieson Gallery building expansion, Lochlin’s playground equipment, the refurbished gazebo and interlocking brick in the Village Green, the Riverwalk, the library, Minden’s Community Food Centre, the library, Hyland Crest: all have been supported with the help of Minden Rotary.
And of course the club’s service goes beyond what we see locally – international contributions include work toward the eradication of polio, youth exchange programs, clean water projects and a dairy farm in India, and dental outreach in Honduras.
The service club is celebrating 75 years of these contributions on June 4, almost exactly to the day in 1947 when the club’s charter night was held on June 18 at Wigamog Inn.
Jeanne Anthon is one of the current club’s longest standing members, having been a part of Minden Rotary for almost 32 years – she’s also, alongside Shirley Kuni, one of the first women to join the local group, in 1991, six years after Rotary began inducting women into their membership after a decision to allow it by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Once I realized it had previously been an all-male domain I was very timid about attending a first meeting,” said Anthon. “But [then-president] Ron Gambell was so enthusiastic about bringing women in, I think that enthusiasm really prevailed with the members and we were treated with great courtesy and respect.”
The vote for Anthon and Kuni to join was unanimous.
“I think another factor that helped break the ice was they desperately needed someone to produce their weekly newsletter and I offered to do that, so I think they quickly realized that where there’s a void, a woman is perhaps ideal to step in,” laughed Anthon.
Anthon said Paul Sisson later came to the club with roses for the women, saying their addition to Minden Rotary was the best thing to happen to the club.
“Rotary’s my second family, the club here,” said Anthon. “We have so much fun, I wouldn’t want to miss a meeting. We are so productive and caring and that has become part of my lifestyle.”
Having served both as a longtime municipal politician and a Rotarian, Anthon said over the years she’s become aware that municipalities alone can’t fulfill all the functions a community needs. Provincial grants have been reduced so the community becomes dependent on service club organizations to seek outside funding to help build or maintain assets.
While Anthon acknowledges all of the club’s contributions over the years, she said Minden Rotary’s part in organizing the COVID-19 vaccination clinics last summer was most challenging and demanding, and also most vital to the community.
“This has been a major success story for our club and community,” said Anthon. “Our club was the first to realize this was going to be a major need in the community, and we were going to need a lot of people to supply the volunteers to maintain those hours and hours of vaccine need. That to me has been profound.”
Anthon said being a Rotarian is an important part of her life.
“When we sit there and see what’s going on in the world and think, well, what can I do about it, I’m just one person, that’s when an organization like Rotary becomes so effective because I’m one person but I can become part of millions of others in helping to solve some of these world issues, like virtually eliminating polio,” said Anthon. “That’s an aspect I think is important in our lives, that maybe there’s a little something we can do.”
She acknowledged Haliburton Rotary, and that while the groups have different agendas, they work together well, noting in particular Ted Brandon’s longtime friendship with the group.
Betty Mark, a member since around 2011, is the chair of Minden Rotary’s Gala Dinner Celebration.
The dinner, which is an annual fundraiser for community efforts, this year will be even more special, with almost 15 past presidents joining the event, including Dick Schell who was president in 1976.
“We’ve asked them to write something they remember about the year they were president, a highlight for them,” said Mark.
The evening will also pay tribute to some of the events Rotary has hosted in town as fundraisers.
“What pulled me in, was that I had a lot of people stopping me on the street asking me to join Rotary,” laughed Mark.
While, like Anthon, Mark volunteers extensively, she said it was nice to join Rotary after her retirement as a teacher.
“It was time,” she said. “It was kind of nice to get out and be with other people. When you’re not working you’re missing all of this contact with other people. It’s kind of nice to join Rotary and connect with other people, a new social network.”
Many members in the group meet weekly, with members who spoke to the Times noting they love the fun and fellowship of the meetings. While there, they engage in a Happy Bucks activity, in which members each donate a dollar which then contributes to the group’s polio vaccine funding or community efforts, and share something that happened during the week that made them happy.
“And that’s what I come away with, a feel good night,” said Mark. “It makes me really proud that I am part of this organization that has done so much for this community.”
Tickets for Minden Rotary’s Gala Dinner Celebration being held on June 4 at the Minden Community Centre are $75 per person, which includes a prime rib buffet dinner served by McKeck’s Tap & Grill and are available online at auctria.events/mindenrotarygaladinner or in-person with cash or cheque payment at Molly’s Bistro Bakery from Wednesday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information about the event email firstname.lastname@example.org. For a full history of the club, visit https://mindenrotary.ca/history.html.