Rotary Club of Bellingham
After celebrating 100 years of service, Rotary Club of Bellingham member, J.C. Hickman, said it is just the beginning. Started in September of 1917, the Rotary Club of Bellingham has brought community leaders and business owners together for generations. The club’s number is 331, meaning it was the 331st Rotary Club in the world.
Rotary’s name comes from the club’s early days, when members rotated from office to office for meetings. Business owners of Bellingham gathered in the Leopold Hotel until 1979, when the group outgrew the space. Today, the Rotary Club of Bellingham is one of five Rotary clubs in Whatcom County, and has about 145 members. The organization has evolved from a club about connecting small business owners to a service club dedicated to supporting the community. Not only does the club service the community, but it provides an essential network of friends and colleagues for its members. The Rotary Club of Bellingham is devoted to seeking out the needs of the community and providing financial support.
Each year, the major projects committee decides whereRotary funds will go based on proposals from membersas well as outsiders. Major projects that have received the Bellingham club’s support include the Pickford Film Center,which received $70,500 in 2010. The club gave more than $100,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Whatcom County, Ferndale Branch, to renovate the club kitchen. In 2008, Rotary committed $155,069 to Whatcom Hospice House. In the two decades from 1997 to 2017, the Rotary Club of Bellingham estimates it has donated nearly $2.5 million to service projects, scholarships, and grants. While the club once held more fundraiser events, today most of the proceeds come straight from individual donations, Hickman said. To celebrate their 100-year anniversary, the club’s major project for 2017–2018 is to bring their scholarship endowment fund total to $1 million. As of July 2017, the fund had $668,645.
The next focus of the club will be to raise a minimum of $400,000 to add to the scholarship endowment fund, said club president Teri Treat. “Youth have always been a passion of the Rotarian,” she said.
While Rotary’s influence has been widespread, diversity among its membership had been less inclusive until the 1980s, when a court decision forced all branches to admit women. Shortly after, in 1989, Treat joined the club. As a small business owner in her 20s, Treat saw the club as a networking opportunity, as well as a way to make a positive impact in her community. “When you are in your 20s, you want to change the world. Being a Rotarian helped me do that.” While life has gotten busy sometimes and kept her from being as involved as she wanted, she has always stayed connected to the club because of the camaraderie between members. Everyone is there for the same reason. Political views and opinions are put aside to fight for a common goal, Treat said. The Rotary Club of Bellingham invites anyone interested in giving back to become a member.
As the Rotary Club of Bellingham enters its second century, here are some other key community projects the club has played a major or minor role in supporting:
- Boulevard Park
- Arne Hanna Aquatic Center
- Whatcom County Soccer Field Complex
- Bellingham Food Bank
- Whatcom Hospice House
- Bellingham Technical College Marine Studies Lab
- Lighthouse Mission’s Major Addition