THE ROTARY Club of Coventry is marking its centenary year by announcing its support for The Coventry Historic Trust’s Charterhouse and public park redevelopment, which includes opening the Charterhouse to the public as a heritage and educational venue.
The club, which today has 38 members of a total 75 across Coventry, is also backing an overseas educational project in conjunction with the city’s President Kennedy School.
While celebrations in person have been put on hold due to Covid restrictions, a Zoom meeting to mark the milestone takes place today (June 3) attended by honorary members, including Lord Robert Iliffe, grandson of the founder, Sir Edward Iliffe.
In this special two-part feature, we look back at highlights from the last 100 years and talk to current and incoming presidents Dr Serena Calder and Martin Cooper.
In 1921 Sir Edward Iliffe’s initial invitations to join the Rotary Club were met with an immediate response and 14 founder members nominated their President and launched an active club.
Four ‘daughter’ clubs were subsequently set up in Coventry to suit members’ availability to attend weekly meetings on different days and times.
As women were originally not permitted, wives of Rotarians set up their own Rotary Inner Wheel to run fund-raising events, which have also achieved much success in their own right.
But how times have changed. The 1989 Council on Legislation vote to admit women into Rotary clubs worldwide remains a watershed moment in the organisation’s history.
The vote followed decades-long efforts of men and women from all over the Rotary world to allow the admission of women into clubs, and several closed votes at previous council meetings.
Since then, they’ve also had their fair share of presidencies, including the current and previous incumbents at Coventry.
Current president Dr Calder said: “Women contribute a lot in their work alongside the men. It was great to see when the clubs started moving with the times.”
Dr Calder is delighted to have raised more than £1,000 for her nominated charity for the year, The Coventry Mission, but as she prepares to hand over her chain to president elect Martin Cooper, on July 5, she can’t help but look back on a year with a difference.
She said: “I’ve really enjoyed it although it’s been a peculiar year because everything’s had to be done via Zoom. But I think it’s been successful as we’ve managed to keep the meetings and the fund-raising and planning going. My main job has been to hold things together during the pandemic.
“Tea and coffee mornings and most types of fund-raising events could not go ahead but, fortunately, we did have some reserves so have still been able to support various good causes – and it’s ongoing.”
In its 100-year history, the Rotary Club of Coventry has welcomed a variety of speakers to their events. Locally the club has encouraged educational exchanges, set up youth speaks competitions and supported outward-bound residential courses and respite for carers.
A children’s automata (moving carousel) still stands in the City Retail Market and funds raised from this are shared between the Lord Mayor’s charities and the Rotary Club charities.
Each Christmas Santa’s Sleigh can be seen by families around the city, a major fund-raiser for all of the Coventry Clubs which work together on this annual event.
Support following both World Wars included Rotarians supporting children whose fathers had not returned from the front.
The children were guided through school and into employment.
The club instituted a Get You Home service for soldiers arriving at Coventry Station during and after the Second World War.
This involved 30 club members and friends transporting 4,500 servicemen 22,000 miles.
Members also helped to distribute parcels to families distressed by bombing of the city.
Other events arranged and supported over the years have included parties for disadvantaged and disabled children, shoes provided for children in need, garden parties, theatre trips, picnics, shopping trips, day trips and concerts for the elderly, trips and breaks at the seaside for underprivileged children, food parcels and donated goods throughout the year including, Christmas and Easter.
In the local community, Rotary has planted trees and bulbs, refurbished plaques and raised funds to restore the stonework and metal doors to the cenotaph in the Memorial Park.
The club also supported the furnishing and equipment for a Therapy Room in Coventry’s new hospice in 2002.
Chairman of the Centenary Committee for the Rotary Club of Coventry Robert Villette, said:
“The centenary is a remarkable achievement for the Club, Rotarians past and present, Coventry and the wider Rotary Community.
“I feel extremely proud to be part of something which has helped so many people across the world over the past 100 years and continues to do so today.”
NEXT WEEK: Part II looks back at the club’s Jubilee celebrations, notable members, international partners, overseas aid, youth and diversity.
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