Grand Island Rotary: over 60 years of service to Grand Island and elsewhere

 
Charter received, May 1959
There is undying dismay among Rotarians: the only remaining Charter Member, Dr. Robert Miller, was called away to an emergency and missed being in the picture of Charter Night Members! The first working meeting, at what old-timers remember as Del & Herb’s formed plans for several service projects.
 
The train in Beaver Island!      
Rotarians committed money to buy and operate an ‘amusement park’ train in Beaver Island Park. The objective: provide a fun environment for park visitors and make money for the Rotary Club. Grand Islanders remember that ride fondly, but it never made money; the train itself had a second life in Fantasy Island for many more years. In the early 1970’s, the Club financed grading and seeding of soccer fields next to Sidway School, and began a tradition of providing scholarships to deserving High School students, a tradition continued today with 130 scholarships totaling over $120,000 given out in the last 50 years. 
 
The Neighbors Foundation      
GI Rotary was instrumental in forming the Grand Island Neighbors Foundation in 1975, and has provided one or more officers and board members for the 40+ years of Foundation, but never wanting it to be a ‘Rotary’ group – it needed and deserved, Island wide support.
 
Gazebo at Town Center              
Working with Ken-Ton and GI BOCES in 1980, Rotary financed and BOCES carpentry students built, the Gazebo as centerpiece of the Town Hall Park. Later, Rotarians themselves built the picnic shelter in Veteran’s Park. Following the lead of the West River homeowners, by the late 1980’s, Grand Island Rotarians took responsibility for ‘Adopt-a-Hiway’ along Beaver Island Parkway, a task they continue now.
 
It took years of fund-raising, plus some State funding help, for Rotary to finance the new entry way at Golden Age Center.  Recently, GI Rotary financed an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) for the Golden Age Center, hoping that it never has to be used. But used constantly during the school year is the Record Board that GI Rotary had installed above the High School pool. 
 
Grand Island Rotary has always listened to the needs of the community. When a house-bound Island woman needed a wheelchair ramp so her husband could wheel her out to a vehicle for doctor and other visits, Rotarians built a ramp for them.
 
 
Moving beyond our shores, in Niagara Falls, Grand Island Rotary cooperated with Niagara Falls (NY) Rotary and a local corporation to have Abate School and the Public Library’s children’s reading rooms stocked with donated books, graded to students reading level.
 
Moving overseas, GI Rotarians have traveled to Bolivia, Haiti, Nepal and Ethiopia, supplying funds and overseeing projects to build simple greenhouses and seal homes from disease carrying bugs in Bolivia, place wells for clean water in Haiti and Ethiopia. In Nepal, Grand Island’s Dr. Dave Johnson, used seed money from GI Rotary as the start to get foundation grants to build a 20 bed hospital in Ilam, Nepal, a hill town far removed from Kathmandu, in an area never having much government health service. Seed money from GI Rotary has started a similar project for a medical clinic desperately needed in rural Haiti.
 
In the past 25 years GI Rotary donated over $12,000 toward an international project of Rotary for $500 million to completely rid the world of polio. 
 
It is possible, but it requires inoculating every child in the world. Bill Gates and his foundation plus many world leaders have joined the fight – only a few countries like India and Nigeria still have the disease. Polio can be completely eliminated, because the virus only lives in human hosts. Get polio eliminated once, and it is gone completely! We are SO CLOSE! When the goal is reached in a few years, Rotary International will be recognized as the originator of this unprecedented humanitarian achievement.
 
For a number of years, G I Rotary ran LobsterFest: all-you-can-eat lobster event for Grand Island, making reasonable profit. However, with limited Club Membership, LobsterFest required using local restaurant to do more and more of operation, limiting profit till it made no further sense. A great, event, too bad it could not be continued!  
 
It was possible to use much of LobsterFest’s profit to make a substantial contribution when an Island group developed Miracle League Field, a special soft surface ‘Tee-Ball’ playing field that could be used by wheelchair bound youth. We then hands-on helped build an adjacent handicapped accessible playground and have continued with yearly maintenance funds for these unique facilities.