“I think the members enjoy it as much as the children,” Ricks said.
‘Service is ... for all'
During the luncheons, Rotarians hear a weekly speaker who could be anyone from the governor to a leading business figure. The speaker at a recent meeting was Stan Clark, founder of Stillwater's Eskimo Joe's empire.
In 75 years, there have been changes, according to attorney and past President Andy Lester. He joined Rotary in Enid, but became a member of the Central Edmond Rotary club in the 1980s. The new club was for weekly lunches. The original club met mostly on Monday evenings. With an aging membership and declining participation, the original club's membership dwindled. By 2005, the two clubs merged, Lester explained, under the 1938 charter.
In 1987, there was a seismic shift as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled women could no longer be excluded from membership.
As Lester puts it now, “That was a good case to lose. Women have completely reinvigorated the group.” He was president from 2009-2010.
“I had two women (Natalie Bonney and Mitzi Hancuff) precede me as president and one (Gail Carr) succeed me,” he said. “Women brought a whole new level of energy.”
Carol Hartzog has been a member for 25 years.
“Service is, as it should be, for all in this world. We all have a duty to ‘pay it forward,'” said Hartzog, a communications professional.
For the next 75 years and beyond, Rotarians will face an issue challenging all clubs: bringing in younger members. Smith knows it's a challenge.
“We're recruiting all the time,” he said. “That generation is much more tech-savvy. We need a good Internet and social media presence to key into them. Word-of-mouth is important also.”
Although Rotarians want to network and serve their world, there's another reason they get together. They like each other.
Edmond Councilman Nick Massey probably sums it up.
“These are really some of the best people you'll ever want to meet and be around,” he said.