Friday, January 28 marked the 33rd anniversary of the Rotary Club of Invermere.
What once began as a budding group on January 28, 1978, has now become a recognized and active part of the Invermere community.
“There were 23 members originally, with three charter members,” said past president and charter member Andy Stuart-Hill, the other two being Todd Fisher and Rick Andruschuk. “We met every week on Thursday at noon, which we still do to this day. For the past couple of years we’ve usually met in the upstairs of Invermere’s arena.”
Today, the Rotary Club has over 35 members and have participated and completed a multitude of projects locally and internationally.
The current president is Jeanette Riches.
“We’re a very active club,” said Stuart-Hill. “Everyone contributes, and are called upon to provide services for the community and internationally.”
The Kimberley Rotary Club first helped sponsor the Rotary Club of Invermere.
Since then, the Rotary Club of Invermere has helped to sponsor the Village of Radium Hot Springs’ Daybreak Rotary Club, and Stuart-Hill has helped to father the Rotary Club in Golden.
When speaking of how the Rotary Club first began in Invermere, Stuart-Hill said, “We knew about Rotary, and we wanted one here in Invermere. We felt there was a real need for an alternative service club, and Rotary interested us.”
Todd Fisher described Rotary clubs as a “businessman’s organization”.
“I was into business at the time, and my father wanted to join the club,” Fisher said. “So I did as well.”
“I was invited to the organizational meeting,” said Rick Andruschuk, recalling the rotary club in its formative stage. “After that the club was formed, and I joined then.”
Steering meetings, as they were called, took place, and the soon-to-be-club promoted itself and asked others if they were interested in participating.
After 18 months, a charter was issued to the Rotary International headquarters in Chicago, IL, and on January 28 a large function was held to celebrate the club’s charter night.
Other Rotary Clubs in the Valley and from the United States attended and donated several items, such as a bell, gavel, and other goods.
“We’ve really stuck to our basic roots,” said Stuart-Hill of the three decades that have passed since the club’s beginning. “It really hasn’t changed all that much over the years. ‘Service above self’ is still important and we have a good, solid core group of Rotarians for local and international services.”
One large change that has occurred within the club was that, until around 20 years ago, the Rotary Club of Invermere was a group for males only.
This has since changed, with women now comprising 40% of the club.
“It’s still a little disheartening to go to other clubs in the country and around the world and see that they still resist female input,” said Yvonne Redeker, treasurer and past-president of the Rotary Club of Invermere. “However, there are all-female clubs around the world as well.”
“It’s a good club to join to serve the community, international community, and youth,” Fisher explained. “We have a wonderful exchange student program, for example.”
The youth exchange program was also what initially drew Redeker to join the club.
“My husband was a [rotary club] member for a few years, then I started in rotary for the youth exchange program,” Redeker said. “We both liked the idea of youth abroad, making peace with youth from around the world and acting as ambassadors of your community to them. We both remain very active in the program, it’s dear to our hearts.”
Andruschuk also feels that the Rotary Club of Invermere has expanded its contributions to international causes, while not sacrificing its services locally.
“I’m more aware of our internationally responsibilities,” said Andruschuk. “But we still cater to people across the community, we haven’t decreased local services, which is one of the reasons I got involved.”
Stuart-Hill also adds that one of the largest projects of the Rotary Club of Invermere is a program with World Health to eradicate polio from countries across the globe.
Since the project began in 1985, only around three countries remain untreated.
“Most people like to give their time and services, and the rotary club is a good place to do that, along with other service clubs as well,” said Andruschuk. “It’s a great way to get to know people in the community as well and make friends.”