The Rotary Club of Wilmington began meeting in 1914, in an age when groups committed to social reform and social service were active in Wilmington. Among the 22 charter members, average age 41, were retailers, wholesalers, professionals, employees, homeowners, lodgers and one politician, the mayor of Wilmington. The first organizational meeting was held at the Hotel du Pont, where the club has met continuously to the present day.
On April 1, 1915, Rotary International granted the club its charter, making it the 148th club to join the world-wide organization that now numbers over 35,000 clubs. From its start, the club’s business and professional leaders have been dedicated to providing humanitarian service to its local community and extending throughout the world. Annual dues then were $10. The club grew steadily, with ups and downs in times of war and the Great Depression.
Always one of RI’s larger clubs, its membership in 2021 totals more than 140 men and women from diverse professions, interests and abilities. The club is one of 42 clubs that comprise Rotary International District 7630, covering all of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Engaging and thought-provoking programs highlight weekly meetings, focusing on business, the economy, issues important to our local service area the City of Wilmington, and a broad spectrum. Topics include government, education, politics, social reform, health care, the arts and entertainment. Music has always played a key role at meetings. The theme song of Rotary International, R-O-T-A-R-Y, That Spells Rotary, was first written in 1923 by our club song leader Norris Morgan. In 2016-17, club member Michael Arrington composed a song honoring the Rotary Foundation Centennial which will be celebrated at the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta.
From the beginning, the club has encouraged and fostered the ideal of service, reaching out to the community with hands-on and financial support. In times of war, it has aided greatly in Civil Defense, and in times of economic hardship, it has provided financial assistance to those in need. In recent years, members responded generously to help victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack, the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the Haiti earthquake, and many other crises.
Awarding scholarships has always had a high priority, beginning in 1924, and continuing today,now awarding multiple four year college scholarships through generous contributions from members to the Rotary Scholarship Fund. Members joined with the five other Greater Wilmington clubs that comprise Area 1 to develop and construct the Can-Do Playground designed for children of all abilities that opened in 2007. In 2015, in celebration of the Club’s Centennial, the Club embarked on a project to convert the little utilized H. Fletcher Brown Park in downtown Wilmington to an inviting venue for educational activities and neighborhood gatherings, and includes plans for an amphitheater, education stations and opening up a handicapped accessible inviting park gateway.
Members mentor youth, stuff stockings for military personnel and for disadvantaged city children, ring bells for the Salvation Army, sell Christmas trees to benefit the Boys and Girls Club, and have adopted Stubbs Elementary School to support the children there from economically distressed families.
On an international level, the club generously supported RI’s program to eradicate polio in the world, participated in a project that led to the construction of a potable water system for a remote town in Guatemala, and supported scholarships for young girls in a new girls’ school in Lahore Pakistan. The Club annually sponsors a program, Rise Against Hunger, where club members join together to pack 10,000 meals each year that are shipped to hungry children in third world countries.
The Rotary Club of Wilmington has an outstanding history, tradition and presence in the city of Wilmington.