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MAC displays newsletters, items from Rotary club’s 100 years

Rotary Club member Steven Schneider, chairman of the membership development committee, gives a tour of the new “Through the Eyes of Rotary” exhibit at the MAC in Spokane on Sunday. (Kathy Plonka)
Rotary Club member Steven Schneider, chairman of the membership development committee, gives a tour of the new “Through the Eyes of Rotary” exhibit at the MAC in Spokane on Sunday. (Kathy Plonka)

Dozens of folks braved the drizzling rain Sunday to view the past 100 years through the eyes of Rotary Club 21.

The one-day exhibit at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture included bound volumes of the Hub weekly newsletters dating back from 1922, now housed in the Joel E. Ferris Research Library at the MAC.

“A lot of this stuff was stored in the basement of our executive director’s home,” said Steven Schneider, chairman of the membership development committee.

He started going through the boxes in preparation for Club 21’s 100th anniversary in 2011. The donation of these pieces of history to the MAC provided the perfect opportunity to invite the public to view them and to celebrate the museum’s new Sunday hours.

“We want people to come in and look at the books,” Schneider said. “Rotarians especially will be interested.”

Chicago businessman Paul Harris formed Rotary in 1905, and in 1911 the Downtown Rotary became the 21st Rotary group in the world. Now there are 35,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.

“We’re one of the largest Rotary Clubs in the world,” Schneider said. The club averages 300 active members.

At Sunday’s event Rotarians thumbed through collected volumes of the weekly newsletter. Homey topics like who had a baby or who was traveling out of town are set against a backdrop of world events like earthquakes in Japan and the rise of Mussolini.

For example, a quote from President Warren G. Harding’s speech at the 1923 Rotary International convention in St. Louis is featured, but so is this tidbit from the same year: “The chamber of commerce has arranged a dance for the delegates to the Inland Empire Teachers Convention. Of course, 1,500 or more school marms will need partners for the ball. Every Rotarian who swings a wicked foot is invited to the dance, sans wife or sweetheart.”

The display also included a colorful collection of Rotary banners from around the world. When members of other clubs visit Spokane, they bring an exchange banner to leave with the club.

And Rotary has played a role in world history. Schneider said many may not know the organization was involved with the League of Nations and with the creation of the United Nations. “Peacemaking across the borders has long been a goal of Rotary,” he said.

But helping local communities is equally important. Club 21 gives approximately $100,000 each year to various groups and individuals. From individual needs like a motorized wheelchair or cochlear implant to bigger projects like fundraising for the Rotary Fountain at Riverfront Park, the club remains staunchly invested in making Spokane a better place.

That’s what made partnering with the MAC such a natural thing. Forrest Rodgers, the museum’s executive director, said, “The history of Rotary is deeply connected to the history of Spokane.”

The MAC is working on new programs for the weekends, some to be offered in collaboration with local groups. “This is really our first event,” Rodgers said. “Our goal is to be an effective partner with community organizations.”

He hopes to see more collaborative events emerge by partnering with other business, civic and cultural organizations.

Glancing at the Rotary International 100-year timeline display, Rodgers said, “We want the MAC to be a place where all segments of our community can connect.”

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