Past-Presidents of Rotary in Racine, Wisconsin discuss the highlights of their terms!
Claire Weslaski - Founder's Club President 2019
Six fellow Rotarians and I became Paul Harris Fellows helping the Rotary Foundation to raise $408 million! To broaden community awareness, on July 4th our club had the first Racine Founder's Rotary parade float in the city's 4th Fest parade. We held a "Kid's Day" club meeting in which our children actually led the meeting. Our club has a brand NEW Website which you are now enjoying. And we participated in the Martin Luther King Jr. Wreath Laying event, held at the MLK Jr. statue which was donated by the Downtown Rotary Club back in 1995 at a cost of $100,000!
On October 24th, the club helped END POLIO NOW by teaming up with Culver's Restaurant to raise $1200. We also had some fun get-togethers including family night at the Modine-Benstead Observatory, evening meetings, and a Ladies Golf Lesson at RCC for all Rotary women including wives of Rotarians. Our Holiday Party featured a young singer named Liamani Segura. Remember this name when she becomes famous!
In February, our annual "Vegas Night" fundraiser netted $24,000 which $9,500 was donated to Camp Anokijig. August's "Dennis Barry Strive Scholarship Golf Outing" netted $24,000 also, and $10,000 went for scholarships to 5 local high school students. Our club rang bells for the Salvation Army for 16 hours and raised $1,400. Reel-to-reel films from Rotary's 1st & 2nd Post Proms of 1953 & 1954 were discovered in storage. The board agreed to have the footage remastered, and you can view it on You Tube using this link: Highlight Reel
In March of 2020 the world was hit by the COVID-19 Pandemic and we had to cancel meetings for several months. In order to keep our club engaged I began shooting Facebook Live videos each Friday at different locations around Racine that are significant to Rotary's history. Some of these videos had thousands of views! Despite the pandemic, our membership remained at well over 100 members! A big THANK YOU to Tom Leuenberger for selecting me as his President-Elect, Mark Patzke for accepting my invitation to succeed me, our 23 board members, and to all club members! "Hands in! Founder's Rotary on 3!" ;)
Tom Leuenberger - Founder's Club President 2018
- Serving as "Honorary Grand Marshall" of the Racine 4th of July Parade
- Appearing on the "Morning Blend" Milwaukee television program to promote Racine's Prom
- Rotary Social at the Brickhouse
- "Attending" Rotary District event at the Dells
- Special Evening "Changing of the Guard" party including the outgoing and incoming District Governors
- Weekly "History" updates at our Friday meetings
- Having our first ever "regular" evening meeting in an attempt to broaden our attendance base
- Getting a talented Treasurer to "balance" our books
- Selecting the best President-Elect ever!!
Patrick Booth - Founder's Club President 2017
My goal as President was to have fun, fellowship and friendship built together as a club. We got the street name changed from Festival Park Drive to Rotary Park Dr. Our youth exchange was Akari from Japan. We created a corporate member offering. Planted a tree next to the bandshell located at Rotary Park. I gave a joke each week for the closing of each meeting. We had our Christmas party with the menu from 100yrs ago to celebrate the 100yr anniversary of our Rotary Club. As usual we did many blood drives, post prom, social get togethers, food sorts, food basket deliveries, bell ringing, etc.
Ashely Staeck - Founder's Club President 2016
Celebrated 100 Years of Rotary in Racine by:
• Creating an implementing a community awareness campaign about our Rotary Club and its impact in the community and world via social media, videos of club members and news articles.
• Donated $100,000 to the City of Racine to build a band shell and rename the park, Paul P. Harris Rotary Park. Here about it here.
• Founder's Club Anniversary Celebration - 80's Party
• Recreated the first Holiday Party – “The Patriot’s Dinner” for our annual Christmas Party mirroring the dinner menu and program.
Scott Hess - Founder's Club President 2015
• We turned 99
• We hosted a RAMAC Business Blender
• I think we broke ground on the band shell in my term but not 100% on that one
• We had an epic President’s picnic at a Kenosha Kingfish game
Steve "Rocky" Donovan - Founder's Club President 2014
The noteworthy thing that happened during my year as President was: The merger of the Downtown Rotary Club into the Racine Founder's Rotary Club.
Larry Vail - Founder's Club President 2012
Several of the high points while I was president of Rotary:
1. We did a remodel of the kitchen at the Women's Resource Center. This included demo work, drywall work, painting, cabinets, and sink. Many within the club helped on this project.
2. Through working with our Interact club, we raised money to help out a school in Racine's sister city in Japan. After the tsunami hit Japan, this school lost their musical instruments. The money we donated was matched by Rotary International, and then matched again by an organization Kevin Cookman worked with. I think it grew to about $15,000 with what our Interact club started out with. This started before I was president, but I was heading up the Interact club at the time, it came to a head when I was president of our club and a group of people from Japan came to visit our club and spoke at one of our meetings.
3. The last thing that comes to mind is a clean water project we did in Uganda. With this project Ko Kryger and I traveled to Uganda with 300 Sawyer water filters, we traveled to four different clubs across southern Uganda. It was amazing to see the way people lived and worked. Especially as it came to water and it's supply, and how this affected other natural resources in the country. Mostly the boiling of water to clean it was leading to deforestation and pollution.
Bill Seidel - Founder's Club President 2011
- 10 new club members added.
- 14 club service projects completed.
- $18,617 in “Proud Money” collected that year.
- Foundation awards $72,279 in grants to 32 deserving local organizations.
- Conducted online member survey which was used to develop a new long range strategic plan.
- Strengthened our mission statement to read - "To provide service to our local and international communities with a focus on youth while promoting integrity and generosity through fun and active fellowship of community leaders.”
- Updated our outdated club By-Laws.
- Hosted Barbora from Slovakia as our Rotary Youth Exchange Student.
- Did a Camp Anokijig work day to improve the facilities.
- Supported Family Service of Racine with their annual fundraiser “Taste of Racine”.
- Held another successful Strive Golf Outing.
- Raised $7,500 to deliver 100 Holiday Baskets for the Food Bank.
- Scored over $1,000 for the cause during Salvation Army Bell Ringing.
- CDS program honored with “Excellence In Education” award.
- Successful Vegas Night nets the club $29,500 to help support Camp Anokijig and Racine Youth Sports.
- 13 tons of food sorted by members and families for the Food Bank during the USPS collection drive.
- Club Blood Drive collects 37 units helping to save over 100 lives.
- Members volunteer at “Top Of The Hops” beer fest. Club earns $3350 from the event for our foundation.
- Planning starts to support a kitchen remodel at the Women’s Resource Center.
Jeff McKeown - Founder's Club President 2010
Serving as the president of the Racine Founder's Rotary Club was one of the highlights of my career so far. It was a fun year with lots of laughs and lots of great service to the Racine Community. Vegas Night continued to be our most successful fundraiser, we had a great Strive Golf Outing, we participated in Bell Ringing, and we gave away a lot of money to many worthy charities. Most importantly, working with Chris Terry (Former President of the Downtown Racine Rotary Club) we planted the seeds for what would grow into the renaming of Festival Hall to Paul P. Harris Rotary Park and the construction of the permanent band shelter on the lake. We also hosted a Rotary Exchange Student during my term as president. I strongly believe the Rotary Exchange Program is one of the best parts of Rotary. Racine Founder's Rotary Club is a great asset for the Racine Community, and I was honored to serve as its president.
Denise Feiner - Founder's Club President 2008
I’m proud to have served as the first female President of the Racine Founder's Rotary Club. I’m a recipient of two Paul P. Harris awards. At the start of my term our club membership was at 72, and grew to over 80 members by the end of my term. In 2009 we gave out $8000 in scholarships.
A Full Life, founded by Kevin Cookman, was chosen to be our new international project. Our primary goal was to help Teen Challenge, and “The Street Orphans of Tashkent”. In the country of Uzbekistan orphaned children live on the streets and group together and live in box huts. In order to stay in these huts, young girls must give themselves as prostitutes to the local police. Otherwise, the children are harassed and thrown labor camps and never come out. The life expectancy for girls is 26, boys 24. Funds were needed to build a transition house where these kids will be housed, fed, and be with provided medical services. They will learn the life, and work skills necessary to lead independent and productive lives.
Assembly of God Church, and A Full Life put together a privately funded mission trip in 2008. Kevin Cookman led the team, and we traveled to Uzbekistan for two weeks. We helped teach life skills on the Teen Challenge farm, and traveled to a nearby village to build a wall around the future shelter for girls. I met with former orphans that survived, to listen to their stories, and find out how we could help. I also met with business leaders in Tashkent to create awareness of Rotary International.
Our exchange student during my term was Julia Todt from Germany. Our club provided community services, and benefited the following organizations. Dragon Boat Races, Post Prom, Career Discovery Solutions – Mitchell Middle School, Vegas Night, Full Life Run/Walk, Racine Youth Sports, Camp Anokijig, Student Exchange Program, Bell Ringing, United Way, Empty Bowls, Junior Achievement, Youth for Christ, Food Bank
I would like to conclude that the board I served on consisted of competent leaders, enabling my successful term. It was an honor and privilege to have served as president the Racine Founder’s Rotary Club.
John "JB" Busey - Founder's Club President 2007
We set an all time record of PROUD $ with 17,450 during the year I was president and Vegas Night made $42,700 thx to Ron Jones and Denise Feiner. Foundation was excited to commit over $67,000 in projects and our membership was over 60 members strong.
Mark Patzke - Founder's Club President 2004
The most memorable time during my year was that this was Rotary International’s 100th anniversary year. The international convention was in Chicago and there was celebrations around Racine. The Paul P. Harris birthplace was a big draw to overseas visitors. There was a gathering at the Racine Zoo. Along with the other two presidents from West and Downtown, we had to do speeches welcoming everyone. I pointed out the irony that we were celebrating Rotary’s 100 years from the Kiwanis Stage at the zoo. We had visiting Rotarians to our club from Denmark, India, Japan and a few other countries in the weeks leading up to the convention. It was a fun year to be president.
Bob Running - Club President 1997
I served as President in 1997. I received a letter from a fellow club about a thought of rewarding students who were at a lower level in the classroom so they may have a chance a higher education. My community service director was John Stutt. I asked John to visit schools and see if they may work. Although it was changed as counselors felt a little higher grade point average would work better. That then became the "Strive Scholarship" program which is still going strong.
Steen Sanderhoff - President for the Downtown Rotary Club in Racine 1995
The activities that year followed the traditions of the Club. Change of the Guard at Prairie School with a lobster dinner. A Christmas lunch with spouses and a High School choir singing carols. The Club hosted a hospitality suite at the District Conference. The local service projects consisted of Teachers in Technology, Shadow Days for Highschool Students, sending students to the World Affairs Seminar, hosting exchange students and the largest project Post Prom. The Club Foundation supported several local non-profits and scholarships. The Club hosted a Rotary Group Study Exchange Group from Argentina, headed by Dr. Nestor R. Soria, MD from the Rotary Club of Tandil and sponsored an international project for surgery tables at a small hospital in the mountains outside Katmandu in Nepal spearheaded by our Rotary Member Dr. Warren DeCray, MD. The Club had a membership of 116 at the end the Rotary year.
Thomas Meyer III, Club President 1993
I am sending you the only picture I have of myself taken during my year as Rotary president (1993-1994). This picture was taken during a week-long scuba diving trip to North Carolina, which caused me to miss my first meeting as president. My year as president went down-hill from there. Perhaps the greatest achievement during my year was that I wasn't impeached! If there are any other pictures taken during my year as president my EX has them, or had them. Most likely they can be found either at Goodwill or the Racine Landfill. Special thanks to Dennis Ganbel, who asked me to be his VP (1992-1993) and Dr. Jeff Janosik (1994-1995) for picking up the pieces.
Jim Parrish, President for the Downtown Rotary Club in Racine 1990
I was President of Racine Downtown Rotary in 90-91 (I think). Recollection of the happenings that year are pretty dim and all my records were discarded when we moved two years ago. Our meetings moved from the Racine Motor Inn (Inn on the Lake at 6th and Main), where we had met for many years (25+), to the YMCA. During the year we had an Air Show on the lake and the Post Prom moved from Memorial Hall to Festival Hall. My VP/Pres Elect was Marv Parker – I guess turning over the gavel was the highlight of my year.
As an aside (a curiosity), not unique to my year, we had a rather formal luncheon set-up. At the Motor Inn there were about 6-8 seats (Head Table) at tables on a raised platform, with the rostrum, where the President and other Board member sat. We continued that at the Y (without the raised platform) for a while but finally did away with it.
Charles A. Rice - President for Rotary West Club 1990
During my presidency the meeting location moved from Holiday Inn by Horlick Dam to Ritzy's Restaurant on Washington Ave. We had 56 members. Rotary is in 172 countries & geographical regions. We publish and mail to members, the "West Side Story" newsletter every week. We had two inbound exchange students from Poland & France, and one outbound student who went to Japan.
At the Venetian Night Fundraiser I was awarded the "Tongs" afterward. We also had an Octoberfest fundraiser in September of 1990. Our Christmas party was held at the Sheraton, and Valentine's Day party at the Wind Point Inn. Other events included: a career expo, District Conference, Post-Prom, Kringlefest, and Rotary Night at the Brewers.
Norris Richardson - President for Rotary West Club 1985
Highlights of Norris Richardson/President of Rotary Racine West
July 26- Our club met at Founders Club where R.I. President Elect Mat Caparas talked.
Aug 26- Gordon Dene headed a Fish Boil at Johnson Park where the Downtown and Founders Clubs we’re invited.
Aug-14 -Both clubs were invited to Downtowns Steak Fry at Prairie School.
Sept 11-Rotary West and Downtown held their Golf Outing where the West Club held on to the trophy.
Oct. 7- Racine Youth Leadership Conference was held at the Racine Sheraton Hotel.
Oct. 28 - District Governor, Jerry Heisdorf, visited the club and handed out 20 Perfect Attendance Awards.
Nov. 25 - Holly Smith and Angela Godwin reported on their trip to the
World Affairs Seminar at Whitewater, WI.
Dec. 12- Downtown Rotary Club arranged for the Madrigal Dinner to be held for all three Racine Rotary Clubs.
Dec. 15- Racine West completes a 10 day stint helping out at Toys for Tots.
Dec. 20- Our Club’s Past District Governor, Joe Ziabicki, contributes $10,000 to the R.I. Foundation (The club had 63 members)
Thomas Harmann - The First Founder's Club President 1985
The club was chartered on April 19th, 1985; Paul P. Harris's Birthday! There were 16 charter members. In order to have the required number of members to become chartered by Rotary International, three members Bucky Hanson, Ron Jones, and Joe Vlasak, were borrowed from the Racine Downtown Rotary Club. These three members never returned to the Downtown Rotary Club. The Founder's Club's meetings were held at 7:00am on Friday mornings at the Holiday Inn by Horlicks dam.
Being a new morning club, the President of Rotary International, 1985-1986 was a guest of the club and speaker for the meeting. With him were several officers of Rotary District 6270.
Most of the club's activities during the year were assisting the Downtown and West Clubs with their events.
Dave Easley - President for the Downtown Rotary Club in Racine 1980
I was president of the Rotary Club of Racine (Downtown Club) for the 1980-81 Rotary year. New activities started up: Shadow Day vocational education program, established two matching clubs (in Argentina and Japan). In Youth Exchange, we had two outbound students and two inbound students.