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75 years worth of achievements to celebrate


It was on Nov. 16, 1945 when the Swan River Rotary Club held its first meeting at the Vimy Hotel with fifteen members, led by elected president T.W. ‘Tom’ Neelands and H.B. Munro as secretary.
By this time, Rotary International had been established for 40 years, and the local club’s history books illustrate that between 1930 and 1940, there were several attempts to get a Rotary Club organized in Swan River.
At that time, the consensus of opinion among the business and professional men of the town seemed to be that it would be a duplication of effort, and that with the comparatively small population to draw from
(compared to a community like The Pas and Dauphin that already has active Rotary clubs), the same men would be called upon to do the work in the new organization and were already busy in established organizations such as the Board of Trade, Development Board, etc..
With the growth of the town, however, and with activities of other organizations not being so prominent, when John N. McFadden of Dauphin came north in November 1945 to size up the situation, he met with a better response than those who tried previously. McFadden contacted a number of business and professional men of the town and, as a result of this, he extended an invitation to some 20 citizens
to be his guests at dinner at the Vimy Hotel. He was accompanied by some fellow Dauphin Rotarians.
McFadden very ably outlined the aims and objects of Rotary, and 15 men signed cards intimating their desire to join a Rotary if such was organized in Swan River. The next meeting to complete the organization of the club was held on Nov. 22.
Since then, the club now known as the Swan Valley Rotary Club (SVRC) has fluctuated in size over the last sevenand-a-half decades. Current president Dave Theunissen has been a Rotarian since 1965, and
he recalls that the club was 50-members strong when he joined. “At that time, we were limited to businessmen and professional men only, no women,” he said, noting that women are allowed now, and
have been for quite some time, but he doesn’t recall exactly when that change was made. 
Now that Theunissen is 90 years old, the SVRC has shrunk down to 10 members, six of which are active.
“We’re still functioning,” said Theunissen. “Last year, we had a successful radio auction and we’re working on this year’s. We’re hoping it will be as good as last year’s.”
Theunissen noted that the goal of the SVRC is to take pride in the community, supporting many local endeavors using the money raised at the annual radio auction, which will be marking its 58th year this
year. The auction didn’t always look like what it does today as a radio auction broadcast on GX94. At its inception, it was a street auction where the leftover wares of businesses and households would be sold off. 
When the NorthWest Round-up and Exhibition had admission at the grandstand, the SVRC also helped sell
tickets at the gate and were able to raise money for their club that way. “We started the pancake breakfast at the first rodeo,” said Theunissen. “Since that time, when we had a good membership, we’ve
gone into Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Flin Flon and put on pancake breakfasts for the annual district conference.” With their fundraising efforts over the decades, the SVRC has contributed to countless
projects in Swan River, many of which carry a naming legacy, such as the Rotary Soccer Fields, Rotary Park, and the Rotary Pathway to Active Living, located in the Swan River Legion Park. Additionally, the
SVRC contributes financially to the Swan Valley Animal Protection League, to breakfast programs in local schools, to the rental for public skating in the Swan River Centennial Arena throughout the year, as well as other special local projects that change from year-toyear, such as a concession stand in Swan River
Legion Park last year, or the CT Scanner that is planned for this year. The contributions and ambitions of the SVRC also extends beyond the boundaries of the Swan Valley and Canada even, with Rotary  International raising billions of dollars for various causes. 
Through contributions from Rotary members – not through Rotary club community fundraising, like the
radio auction – more than $2.1 billion has been raised and countless volunteer hours given to protect nearly 3 billion children in 122 countries from polio. Theunissen noted that the project began in 1980, and they had hoped it would be completed in five years time, but international conflicts and civil unrest in certain nations posed challenges. 
However, to this day, the only countries where polio remains endemic is Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We’ve also functioned along with The Pas, Flin Flon and Thompson in overseas projects in India, Africa
and the Caribbean,” said Theunissen. “We’ve funded schools. We’ve funded a kitchen and eating place for about 10,000 children. “It’s a bit of a struggle now with the low membership, but we still have members and others there to help us on the evening of the radio auction.” In order to encourage active  membership, Theunissen said that the club has evolved somewhat to accommodate participation in different ways, including a corporate membership.
He noted that the changes in the business landscape means that a significant amount of businesses are no longer owned by a local person, so by offering a corporate membership, businesses are able to
participate in that way, with representatives encouraged to attend meetings. Theunissen is also  encouraged by the cooperation that the SVRC has been receiving from sponsors for the upcoming
radio auction. “They’ve heard where our money is going to this year and they think that it’s a wonderful
idea,” he said, adding that they may have to raise money for it next year as well if this year’s auction goes well and if the project still needs fundraising dollars. Take a peek in next week’s Star and Times
for the full list of items to be auctioned off from local sponsors. Then, tune into GX94 radio on Nov. 5 from 7-11 p.m. and call in to 204·734·6831 to bid on your favourite items.

Jeremy Bergen