Rotary Club of Nanaimo president Janeane Coutu, shown at the Nanaimo entrance sign at Departure Bay ferry terminal, and her fellow Rotarians are celebrating the club’s centennial this week. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Rotary marks 100 years of difference-making in Nanaimo

April 25-May 3 is Nanaimo Rotary Centennial Week

A 100-year-old service club in Nanaimo can’t celebrate its centennial exactly how it might have liked, but the occasion isn’t going unnoticed.

The Rotary Club of Nanaimo was chartered 100 years ago this week and in recognition, the mayor has proclaimed April 25-May 3 as Nanaimo Rotary Centennial Week. The city is illuminating the Bastion in blue and gold light each night.

“As far as our own club celebrating, it’s been challenging to try and figure out how we can do that,” said Janeane Coutu, president of the Rotary Club of Nanaimo.

The club’s signature project for its 100th anniversary is the Rotary Centennial Garden at Maffeo Sutton Park. The timeline was supposed to align with the club’s centennial and while that won’t quite happen, it’s not as important during a pandemic, when physical distancing precludes park gatherings anyway.

“It’s nice that it will be finished and open hopefully when things get back to normal for everybody…” Coutu said, adding that she visited the park this past weekend to take a look. “Things are moving along really well down there.”

One event that will go ahead this week is a fundraiser on Friday afternoon, May 1, that will see Rotary president-elect Bob Janes run 100 laps of the 400-metre track at Rotary Bowl stadium with donations going to the Rotary Foundation and the Community Response Fund for those impacted locally by COVID-19.

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Some of the Rotary’s fundraising efforts have been slowed by the pandemic. The spring used book sale was cancelled, though Coutu is hopeful that the fall sale will be able to proceed. She was at Nanaimo North Town Centre earlier this month dropping off some books at the storage space and someone pleaded to pop in for a moment to make some purchases.

“People are so desperate for books,” Coutu said.

In the meantime, some regular business is continuing. The club still meets weekly at its usual time, via Zoom. Members are keeping up with grant applications and some ongoing commitments for post-secondary scholarships, for example, are expected to be carry on as usual.

“I think it’s pretty fair to say we’re not going to be able to do as much as we would normally in a given year, but we definitely can keep some of those things going that people are depending on,” Coutu said.

Rotary’s 100 years of work can’t be summarized easily, with examples of the gear logo emblazoned all around the city. Some of the club’s contributions, according to the city proclamation, include facilitating and supporting construction of the old hospital in the Old City Quarter, Bowen Park, Rotary Bowl stadium, the entrance sign at Departure Bay, Tillicum Lelum centre, Rotary Skatepark, Rotary Field House at the Serauxmen Sports Fields, Rotary Lookout at the Visitor InfoCentre, VIU Library’s special collections room, Nanaimo Community Hospice, the NRGH Emergency Department and Eden Gardens care home.

“It’s an incredible history in Nanaimo,” Coutu said.

Rotary clubs around the world didn’t start inviting women to join until the late 1980s. Coutu and three others were the first women to join the Rotary Club of Nanaimo on the same day in 1992. She said “it feels right” that her presidency falls partly during the club’s centennial year and said she’s going to enjoy the milestone.

Mayor Leonard Krog’s proclamation notes that the club’s members provide humanitarian service, follow high ethical standards, promote goodwill and peace and assist those in need abroad and at home.

“These efforts provide financial, in-kind and hands-on support to many local organizations, community groups and charities [and] provide direct help to people in need in our community,” the proclamation reads.

To learn more about the Rotary Club of Nanaimo, click here.

READ ALSO: Nanaimo Foodshare gets help from Rotary in keeping fruits and veggies fresh

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