Special to Iredell Free News

The Rotary Club of Statesville is celebrating a century of community service, civic leadership, and volunteerism this month.

The local Rotary club is part of Rotary International, a global service organization that brings together business and professional leaders to provide humanitarian services and promote peace around the world. The international organization boasts roughly 1.2 million members.

The first Rotary club was established in Chicago in 1905.

While in Chicago for a business meeting in 1921, W.A. Thomas attended the Rotary meeting as a guest. This meeting had such an impact on Thomas that he saw the value the club could offer the Statesville community.

With the help of the Charlotte Rotary club and 16 businessmen in Statesville, the community’s first civic club, was chartered on November 22, 1921. Original charter members include: W.A. Thomas*, J.M. Moore, Frank Johnson, Garland Shelton, Charlie Hope, J.F. Carlton, L.S. Gilliam Sr., T.N. McElwee, C.V. Henkel Sr., Louis McKesson, D.M. Ausley, F.F. Steele, C.H. Turner, Avery Johnston, P.A. Bryant, Dorman Thompson, and B.L. Scronce.

The first club meeting was held on May 2, 1921.

By 1929, The Rotary Club of Statesville had grown to about 50 members. Membership declined rapidly during the Depression, rose to near 60 in 1940, and fell again during WWII.

In the 1950s the club experienced new growth with leaders and executives of the new industries.

By the mid-1970s, membership peaked at 115 and the club was getting too large. Bill Mills and Jim Sample were charged with the formation of a new club, leading to the establishment of the Rotary Club of Greater Statesville.

Early meetings were held in the community house on Meeting Street. As the club grew, they met at the Carolina Hotel on South Center Street, enjoying the finest food prepared by Mrs. George Eaton. After she retired, the club moved to the Vance Hotel, then the Ramada Inn, the Holiday Inn, and finally to the Statesville Country Club, where the club currently meets each Tuesday at noon.

Today, the club has 64 members.

The club was initially supported by donations made by members. It wasn’t until the 1950s that fundraising projects were established to support ongoing efforts of the club.

Rotary Jollies, February 1960.

In 1958, Rotary Jollies, a minstrel show, was created to raise funds. With cooperation of the Statesville Theater, the show was produced in the Playhouse Theater to sellout crowds.

The Rotary Club of Statesville has always been a service club and has supported the Statesville community in various and innovative ways since its inception in 1921.

In 1966, the club furnished and equipped the new auditorium built within Mitchell College’s library building.

In 1974, the Rotary Farmer’s Market was established by the club to provide local farmers an outlet to sell locally grown products and to provide Statesville citizens an opportunity to purchase fresh, locally grown produce and other products.

In 1992, the Rotary Club of Statesville established an endowment to raise money each year to support local Statesville charities and service projects. The endowment has disbursed $314,050 to 58 community programs since 2008.

In 1996, club members served as administrative assistants at the Open Door Clinic next to the Fifth Street Shelter, helping with data entry and patient forms.

And, most recently, the club partnered with Iredell County Parks & Recreation in May of 2020 to build a picnic shelter at Jennings Park. Club members installed landscape fabric, planted shrubs, and spread mulch around the shelter to complete this labor of love.

“The Rotary Club of Statesville is proud of its long history of service to the Statesville community and looks forward to another hundred years of service above self,” said Club President Michelle Hepler.

Rotary Picnic Shelter Dedication, Jennings Park, May 2020.

About Rotary

Rotary brings together a global network of volunteers dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and regions. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. If “Service Above Self sounds like a motto you can embrace, visit rotarystatesville.org/ for more information about joining the Rotary Club of Statesville.