Darien Rotary Club History
The city of Darien, Illinois was still in its infancy when a group of local business professionals began to discuss the need for a service organization that could contribute to this struggling new community. The nearby Rotary Club of Hinsdale, Illinois also recognized this need and agreed to sponsor a new Rotary chapter. On April 8, 1974, the Rotary Club of Darien was chartered. District Governor Russell F. Dudman presented Don Patrick, the Club’s first President, with the Charter at the Rotary Conference, which was held at the Pheasant Run, in St. Charles, Illinois on April 26, 1974. The Darien Rotary Club was chartered with 25 business professionals from the community of Darien, Illinois. These business professionals felt the need for an organization to help build better understanding in the community, to help support local businesses, maintain the growth of the city by patronizing all the merchants, and to help the residents with grant in aid and scholarships. In June of 1974, the Club held its first fundraiser, a golf outing at Cog Hill Country Club. The proceeds from this event were ear marked to seed the Grant in Aid and Scholarship fund. In September of 1974, a short time after its charter, there appeared in the local newspaper an article from the Bicentennial Commission asking volunteers to help restore Old Lace School, which is a historical landmark located in the heart of the city. The new Rotary Club offered to provide technical skills and the labor necessary to carry out the plans laid for this project. The Darien Rotary Club’s first President Don Patrick, of Patrick's Restaurant, said, “our membership is well qualified to make this offer because our membership includes contractors, engineers and architects as well as other business people, having active dealing with materials and supplies.” After meeting the Darien Bicentennial Commission and the Darien Historical Society, city historian George Tikasky and Rotary Representatives agreed that the Darien Rotary Club would proceed with exterior work as quickly as possible. On April 26, 1975, the Club started removing all the old paint and the restoration was underway. On August 9, 1975, they finished the project of restoring the exterior of Old Lace School. With the completion of this modest Bicentennial project, the new Rotary Club of Darien cut its teeth. This Rotary Club has matured into a dynamic and vital organization that has contributed over 90,000 member hours and over $500,000.00 to local, national and international Rotary projects.
Service to the community was demonstrated early on, in the Darien Rotary, and that “Service Above Self” spirit has been the major driving force behind all sponsored projects over the years. The projects to combat illiteracy, fund scholarships, aid in the fight against disease, assist the elderly and provide relief to disaster victims have shown that the Darien Rotary can plan successful humanitarian projects and they can deliver a successful result to the appropriate individuals or organizations. A few of the specifics that relate to these projects and display the enthusiasm the Darien Rotarians have fostered are:
Provides living quarters and funding for foreign exchange students. This project has included seven students from five different countries. In addition to the foreign exchange students The Darien Rotary also mentored and assisted 5 Ambassadorial Scholars from 4 different countries
Provides grant in aid funding totaling over $350,000.00. This financial aid assisted 400 Darien area individual students and organizations attend college, achieve specialized career training or inform the community about specific health or safety issues.
Donates food items to various community pantries, churches and needy families that live in the surrounding communities.
Provides Books, Braille printers, X-ray equipment, vegetable seed packets, cancelled bicentennial U. S. stamps and dental equipment to 12 different countries around the world.
Continues to foster a strong friendship and professional association with the Carmelite Carefree Village Retirement Center. The club has served meals, cooked meals and entertained the residence of this Center at least six time per year since 1979. The Club has also provided computers and computer training for the residence, a sound system, a trampoline, a large screen television set and two 12-passenger vans over the years. In 1999, the Darien Rotary presented to the Carefree Village a check for $10,000.00. This check was presented to the retirement center at the Darien Rotary’s 25th anniversary celebration.
Continues to underwrite many local projects and programs, but in the last few years, it has begun to widen its service to the world community. When the Northwestern University announced it was closing its Chicago dental school in 2001, the Darien club provided the project leadership to remove, transport and ship dental equipment and office furniture to impoverished communities in Central and South America. In response to a district goal of helping to improve literacy and healthcare in third world countries the Darien Rotary stepped in. The club donated a set of encyclopedia books to the University of Swaziland in Africa. This gift, in March 2002, also included the Britannica Medical and Health Journal. The club has also joined with Rotary clubs around the world to eradicate Polio by participating in Rotary International’s PolioPlus program.
The Club’s ability to perform at such a high level of public service is largely due to an energetic and enthusiastic membership. The Darien Rotary Club’s Action Auction is the primary source of funding for all these projects. The annual event, began in 1984, and is held in October. Business and individuals in the community, as well as Club members donate a myriad of goods and services for the auction. The auction evening provides for a gourmet dinner, a Live and Silent Auction. Over 250 guests typically attend with the Darien Rotary Club netting approximately $40,000 yearly.
The Rotary Club of Darien is proud to be a vital and active member of the community and in the long tradition of Rotary International’s commitment to mankind, expects to continue to assist the local and world community whenever the need surfaces.