Two clubs become one: Rotary Club of Lake Charles + Greater Lake Charles Rotary Club

Seldom does a club membership appeal to so many types of people in so many seasons of their lives: leaders, followers, the up-and-coming, those who know they need to network and natural networkers, the social butterfly and seeker of solace, the successful and soon-to-be successful, and maybe most of all, men and women with the hearts, hands and feet of servants.

The 107-year-old Rotary Club of Lake Charles merged with the Greater Lake Charles Rotary Club earlier this year after both clubs faced the challenges associated with the pandemic, the shut-down mandate and the hurricanes. The combination has created a synergy that’s attracting so many new members, more tables are being added to the room where they meet. The club will use the name Rotary Club of Lake Charles.

“It didn’t take long to discover that each of our previous clubs had strengths that were absent in the two smaller clubs,” said Michelle Jordan, board of directors and past president.

Members range in age from 30 to 90 years and all have a healthy respect for Club history and continuing the tradition of Rotary – but this is not your great grandfather’s Rotary.

President Michael Gardner remembers the pride he felt when he visited the room his great grandfather’s Rotary  met in, in the basement of a church in Sharon Springs, Kansas.

“The Club feels on track,” he said. “Members like the progress that has accompanied the merger, whether it’s bringing back the weekly Rotanotes Bulletin or practicing good governance.”

“Rotary has definitely changed over the years,” said Jordan. “In 1905, Rotary reflected the culture. It was a place to serve for the men of the community, and today we are still seeing the impact of those projects. Another change is Rotary’s push to openly share what we do. When I joined the club years ago, projects were done quietly and without much fanfare. Thankfully, the philosophy has changed because being public about good works attracts others who want to be a part of that. Service is infectious.”

Ask most of the members why they joined Rotary, and answers begin or end  with, “to serve others.” Sol Halliburton joined in 2018 to continue her family’s tradition of service. April Meehleder has been a member of the Lake Charles Rotary for less than a year. She is service driven. Joe Toups 29-year member summed it up like this, “You have not lived until you do something for someone who can never repay you. That’s what being a Rotarian is all about.”

Since the clubs merged, the Rotary Club of Lake Charles has raised funds through its Bourbon Bash event for the Rotary Foundation and McNeese and Sowela scholarships. It collected 165 boxes of cereal for Waters’s Edge Church, according to Amy Gardner, treasurer.

“That’s just shy of one million calories,” she noted.

The Club also participates in Rotary International’s very aggressive grants programs. Some of the international grants generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for large scale projects such as municipal water in Haiti. Local grants have been used to build bunk beds right here in Lake Charles.

“One of the biggest advantages to being part of a multi-generational group is that you will always have someone who is in the same stage of life as you are, or someone who can offer a perspective from the next stage,” Jordan said. “My Rotary family has lifted me through many stages, when I was a new employee, a new mom, facing professional changes and helping aging parents. I am so grateful for the wisdom and guidance. Even when I wasn’t able to be present due to the seasons of my life, it was often fellow Rotarians who checked in to make sure I was OK.”

Rotary Board of Directors are Michael Gardner, president; Dalton Hinton, president-elect; Louie Barbe, secretary, Amy Gardner, treasurer, Chris Craven, vice-president, John Fear, sergeant-at-arms, Mark Hebert, executive secretary, Hiren Zaveri, executive secretary, Alicia Boutte, membership chair and Richard Chamberlain, foundation chair.

If  “service above self” – the Rotary’s motto – is an aspiration, one of the local Rotary Clubs might be for you. To find out more, go to https://rotarylc.com.

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