Logo for: Rotary Old Saybrook

About Rotary Old Saybrook

Rotary is a worldwide organization of men and women who are business and professional leaders. Rotary provides humanitarian services, encourages ethical standards in all vocations and helps build goodwill and peace in the world. Approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more then 31,000 Rotary clubs located in 166 countries.

The main objective of Rotary is service in the community, in the workplace, and throughout the world. Rotarians develop community service projects to address needs in their local communities and in the international community. Additionally, they support programs for educational opportunities and international exchanges for students, teachers, and other professionals.

How did Rotary Begin?

Rotary is the world's first service club. A young lawyer, Paul P. Harris, and three of his friends, started the Rotary movement in Chicago in February of 1905. The group wanted to recapture the friendly spirit that they had experienced in the small towns they grew up in and had lost in the bigger city. Their weekly meetings "rotated" among their offices - hence the name ROTARY  that would become internationally known.

History of the Rotary Club of Old Saybrook

The organization meeting for the Rotary Club of Old Saybrook was held on November 1, 1926 in the Odd Fellow Hall in Essex, sponsored by the Middletown Rotary Club. Towns included in proposed charter were Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Old Saybrook, Old Lyme and Westbrook. Weekly meetings were scheduled at the Pease House, on Bridge Street at Saybrook Point.

The presenting of the Charter by the District Governor, was held on May 18, 1927.  Twenty Charter Members were present including: Rev. Riley B. Montgomery from Centerbrook, Charles A. Pelton and Charles G. Swan from Clinton, Lucius H. Biglow, Simon R. LaPlace, Dr. Francis Larson, Carl W. Maddocks and Oliver I. Markham from Deep River, Harry R. Barnes, A. D. W. Chalker, Dr. Charles C. Davis, George M. Hall, John S. Rankin and Morton C. Tiley from Essex, Joel M. Beard and Fred S. Chapman from Old Saybrook, and William R. Bushnell, Oliver H. Chalker, John A. Hobrook and Gilbert H. Spencer form Westbrook.

The Club continued to grow in numbers until the fall of 1928 when the Clinton members withdrew and joined the newly formed Guilford, Madison and Clinton Rotary Club. In 1954 that club split into three clubs, one in each town.

During the fifties three new clubs were formed in the area, Deep River Club in 1950, the Essex Club in 1955, and the Chester Club in 1957. The Saybrook Club lost several and conscientious members to each of the new clubs and as a result, in 1957, the Club was renamed the Rotary Old Saybrook, representing the towns of Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook.

Early in its existence, the Rotary Old Saybrook felt the need to support and encourage academic programs in all three high schools in the towns served by the Club. At first it was small monetary gifts to support specific programs.  Gradually, it became scholastic recognition for students who needed financial assistance to further themselves academically.

In 1977 the Club initiated its first four-year academic scholarship of $1,000. In 1980, two-year vocational scholarships were introduced.  Recently, a third has also been introduced the "vocational" concept was dropped to encourage students to pursue two-year programs. In 1982, a second four-year academic scholarship was offered. In 1999, all the scholarships were increased in value: the four-year awards to $1,500 per year and the two-year awards to $800 per year, which means a total of $16,800 must be budgeted each year.

The Rotary Club of Old Saybrook recognizes the achievements of High School students through its Student of the Month program. Each month, of the nine months of the school year, a student is chosen by the school representing a discipline of study, i.e. Math, English, Social Studies, etc. The student, their parents, and the teachers are invited to our breakfast meeting on the second Wednesday of the month where they are presented with a certificate of recognition and a small stipend. The Club also donates $50.00 to The Rotary International Foundation for Polio Plus in the student’s name.

On a historical note our first, “Student of the Month”, award was given October 10, 1990 to Sean Benak, Old Saybrook High School.

On October 4.1999 the program was expanded to include Westbrook High School. The award was given to Alison Voegel, Westbrook High School.

On December 4, 2000 the program was expanded again to include Lyme/Old Lyme High School. The award was given to Maia Wojcik, Lyme/ Old Lyme High School.

As of July 24, 2019, The Rotary Club of Old Saybrook has recognized the achievements of 583 High School students from our three high schools.

During 1997 two Interact Clubs were organized in the Old Saybrook and Westbrook High Schools. The students in these clubs are encouraged to attend statewide and national conferences run by Rotary to promote peace and programs for the needy around the world. In 1998, a similar group, the Spokes Club was organized in the Old Saybrook Middle School with the same objectives. In 1995 the DARE program was introduced in the middle and high schools in all three towns served by the Club. A short time later it was introduced in the elementary schools. This program helps students to resist the temptation to become involved with drugs and alcohol. These programs have required the Club to budget over $7,000 each year for their support.

Although the above may imply our Club is strictly community oriented, such is not so! Over the course of 75 years, several of our members have attended International Rotary Conferences and have returned with requests that we participate in specific national and international projects. For example, in 1977 several high school students went to Belgium for a summer cultural exchange program. In 1979 and 1982 our Club members hosted high school students from the Philippines and from Sweden for the academic year on the cultural Exchange Program for high school students. More recently our Club has sponsored three different persons to the Group Study Exchange Programs in Turkey, Peru and Taipei.  Also, one of our members, John Donnelly and his wife Jane have been active in the District supported programs in Haiti, as has our Interact Clubs with monetary donations

The Rotary Club of Old Saybrook has been very active supporting activities on the academic, local, and international levels thanks to the conscientious efforts of our very capable leaders and presidents and will continue to do so. The club conducts several fundraisers each year to support those programs.