The organizational meeting for a new Rotary Club in Monrovia was held on June 22, 1922 at the offices of the Southern Counties Gas Company, 114 E. Lemon Avenue in Monrovia. This historic location still exists in Old Town Monrovia. This was after it had been determined that there was a sufficient level of interest in a new club and enough individuals who would qualify as charter members. Application was made to Rotary International for a new club in Monrovia, and the Rotary Club of Pasadena was the sponsor. The application was approved by Rotary International, and the club’s charter was issued October 24, 1922. Monrovia Rotary was Club #1269 in the Rotary World. The first president was Walter E. Keefe, District Manager for the Southern Counties Gas Company. The last surviving charter member, Dr. William G. Barks, died November 24, 1967 after being a member for forty-five years.
Over the years, Monrovia Rotary has been honored to provide two district governors for our district: George Carlson and William “Billy” Ryan. The former is now memorialized with an award presented annually to a member of the club who has provided outstanding contributions to the betterment of the club, while the latter is memorialized with a scholarship presented annually to an outstanding scholar-athlete at Monrovia High School.
The fist civic project attempted by the Club was the erection of a band shell in Library Park in Monrovia. The band shell was constructed during the 1927-1928 Rotary Year. While it has been moved from its original location, the band shell still serves its intended purpose in the park. New signage to be installed in October of 2012 will now prominently identify the band shell’s Rotary origins. Also during the 1927-1928 Rotary Year, the Monrovia club sponsored the formation of the Rotary Club of Arcadia.
The next notable civic project of the club was the conversion of an abandoned reservoir site at the corner of Lime and California Avenues into an attractive neighborhood park. The vacant land was landscaped, and playground equipment was purchased and installed by the club. The renovated corner has been known since 1969 as “Rotary Park”
Responding to a desire to honor those from Monrovia who gave their lives in the Vietnam conflict, the club under the leadership of President Rob Hammond provided the funding for a memorial in Library Park bearing the names of those who perished. The monument was dedicated May 27, 1996.
The construction of a new public library in Monrovia inspired the Club under the leadership of President Mary Ann Lutz to establish a fund for the purpose of helping to furnish the new building once it was completed. Several years of fundraising activities allowed the Club to assist with the innovative furnishings of the “Cozy Corner” in the children’s wing of the new library. The area has been a favorite of young library patrons since the library opened in 2009.
While not visible to the general public, “Fort Rotary” at the Trask Scout Camp in the mountains above Monrovia enhances the camp experience of those scouts who spend time there. A joint venture with the Rotary Club of Arcadia, the project was designed and constructed by Rotary volunteers.
Additional civic projects include a drinking fountain in the alley of the 600 Block of S. Myrtle Avenue, and the scoreboard at the Mary Wilcox Youth Center.
Monrovia Rotary has participated in several international service projects in addition to local projects: a water well in Africa, construction at Valle de Las Palmas in Mexico, a house for a deserving family in Tijuana, school supplies for children in South Africa, and wheelchairs for those who cannot afford them in Mexico. The project with the broadest scope has been participating in Rotary International’s goal, with the assistance of the Gates Foundation, of eradicating polio throughout the world. Members of the Monrovia Club have given generously to this ongoing project, and the goal is now within reach. All Rotarians would like to see polio join smallpox as a disease banished from the face of the earth.
There has always been a strong relationship between Monrovia Rotary and the students in Monrovia’s public schools. In addition to providing academic achievement awards to deserving students at Monrovia’s two middle schools, the Club provides numerous scholarships to graduating seniors at Monrovia High School as well as Canyon Oaks and Mountain Park Alternative Schools. Monrovia Rotary also supports the Monrovia Adult School with financial assistance for specific areas of vocational training.
Rotary’s motto has been “Service above Self” almost since 1905 when Rotary was founded in Chicago. The members of the Rotary Club of Monrovia are grateful for ninety years of service to our community and for the dedication of individual club members that has made our service projects possible.
October 10, 2012