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Rotary Corner: What Is Rotary?

The organization has a long-standing tradition of improving communities

The world’s first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, was formed in 1905 by Paul Harris, an attorney who wished to capture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he had felt in the small towns of his youth.

The Rotary name was derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members’ offices. As Rotary grew, its mission expanded beyond serving club members’ professional and social interests.

Rotarians began pooling their resources and contributing their talents to help serve communities in need. The organization’s dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its motto: Service Above Self.

The Rotary emblem has evolved from a simple wagon wheel design to today's gear wheel
The Rotary emblem has evolved from a simple wagon wheel design to today’s gear wheel.

Today, Rotary International is defined as a volunteer organization of business and professional leaders (working or retired) who provide humanitarian service and help build goodwill and peace in the world. Rotary clubs exist to improve communities through a range of humanitarian, intercultural and educational activities by addressing critical issues at home and abroad.

Clubs advance international understanding by partnering with clubs in other countries.

Rotary clubs, such as Santa Barbara Sunrise, have created their own logos
Rotary clubs, such as Santa Barbara Sunrise, have created their own logos that incorporate the Rotary International emblem.

The Rotary Foundation has awarded more than $2.1 billion in grants.

The Rotary wheel emblem has evolved from a simple wagon wheel design (to illustrate “civilization and movement”) to today’s gear wheel with 24 cogs, six spokes and a keyway in the center so it can be attached to a power shaft.

Clubs can develop their own logo and incorporate the RI wheel emblem.

— Betsy Munroe is the public relations chairwoman for the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara Sunrise, which meets at 7 a.m. Wednesdays at the Santa Barbara Club, 1105 Chapala St.

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