The Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club began with 25 members.
“Now, 20 years later, I’m glad to see it has grown to over 80,” Ron Reynolds said during the club’s Feb. 20 meeting.
Reynolds was one of the charter members, and he was among those who spoke about the club’s beginnings as its 20th anniversary was celebrated.
The Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club’s formal charter night was on Jan. 22, 1993, at the Waupaca Country Club.
It was Reynolds who started the groundwork for the new club.
A Rotarian since 1970, he approached the board of directors of the Appleton Rotary Club in 1991 and asked the board if it would consider an extension of the Appleton club.
At the time, Reynolds was thinking about retirement and a move to Waupaca.
He wanted to continue to be involved in Rotary after he moved.
Once Appleton’s club agreed to the extension, a feasibility study took place.
Between 25 and 35 people were invited to a breakfast meeting at the Waupaca Country Club to see who would be interested in joining the new club.
“The biggest hurdle,” Reynolds said, “was getting them to attend weekly meetings.”
Other area service clubs typically met once a month and some only a few times a year, he said.
“We held a series of slideshow meetings,” Reynolds said. “Once we established a routine with a core group, we were given provisional status.”
That was in 1992.
During the club’s formal charter night a year later, the club was presented with several gifts: a gavel, a bell and a large blue banner.
Charter members reminisced about the club’s beginnings, as part of the club’s Feb. 20 program.
Al Ruetten thanked Reynolds for his idea to start a club here.
“I was in the club four to five years,” Ruetten said. “What I remember was all the fun I had, the enthusiasm, the new events, the friendships.”
What may be tougher than starting a club is sustaining it, he said.
“Congraulations on all you’ve accomplished here,” he said.
Jim Peterson said, “It’s just great to be back with some of my friends.”
He is happy and proud about being one of the the club’s charter members.
Cindy Oerter said it was Ruetten who invited her to join the club.
“One of the the wonderful things about the club is you change presidents every year,” she said. “That is great. It changes the tone, the energy.”
She described the members as committed and hard working.
The club’s commitment to the Rotary Youth Exchange program was also noted.
Dr. Robert Dent, also a charter member of the club, remembered raising his hand at a meeting in the mid 1990s and saying the club should become involved in the program.
“I became the officer,” he said.
Since then, the local club has become known for the number of local students who participate in the youth exchange program and the number of students hosted locally by families.
“You get out of clubs what you put into them,” Dent said. “We put a lot into youth exchange.”
Dent continues to stay in touch with many of the former exchange students who came to Waupaca.
“Each student’s year was quite different,” he said.
Oerter said the program changes lives.
“The focus of the club has been education and kids,” she said. “We have done great things for kids. The Class of 2009 was one of them.”
It was Dr. James Fico’s idea to have members of the club meet with students from that class, from the time they were in kindergarten until they graduated in 2009, she said.
The club hopes to follow up with that class.
“It was fun for the class and the students,” Oerter said. “We did what we knew and worked with the kids one-on-one.”
The club also has a foundation and is particularly proud of the work it accomplished in what became Rotary Park.
“We have lists and lists of things we’ve done,” Oerter said. “I just want you to know each one of you is important to the club. We can all makes changes in the world.”