The Rotary Club of Dawson County celebrated its 25th anniversary this past week with a special breakfast honoring the founders and members that have made the club a success.
"I want to start the celebration by recognizing all those who have paved the way for all the good Rotary Club of Dawson County has done in the world over the last 25 years," said President Michele Hester at the breakfast on April 27.
Hester read a list of the accomplishments of the club, which is part of the 150-year-old Rotary International, a global service club.
Accomplishments include giving scholarships to deserving seniors, recognizing outstanding government employees, supporting the Margie Weaver Senior Center, holding a free Thanksgiving dinner, putting a handicapped swing at a local park and building Rotary Island.
"That is a lot of stuff that we have done and that is just a few of the things that we've done over the years," Hester said.
Hester also recognized the founders of the Dawson club. Among them were David Wallace, Phillip Hester, Lake Gibson, Russ Wallace, Jimmy Bruce and Dan Holbrook.
Phillip Hester was the first club president, and told Hester that being one of the organizers of the group was one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences of his career and his life.
"He was membership driven, and he was instrumental in recruiting many of the founding members, including the club's first secretary treasurer, Lake Gibson," Hester said.
The club's longest-serving member, Ted Bearden, owner of Bearden Funeral Home and county coroner, was one of four speakers at the meeting.
Bearden is also the only serving member to receive the Paul Harris Fellow Plus Four recognition.
The Paul Harris Fellow recognition is given to individuals who contribute or have contributions made in their name of $1,000 to The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.
In honor of the club's 25th anniversary, Bearden said he wanted to make a donation to receive the Plus Five recognition. Hester surprised Bearden by telling him the club would donate the money in his name.
Bearden said during his speech that the club had come a long way since the early days when a dozen or so members met at the Pool Room every Thursday morning.
"I've always tried to make things better for the people coming along behind us," Bearden said. "The thing about Rotary is, the year I was president, we dug a well in Honduras for an orphanage for kids who had never had running water. We'll never meet any of those kids but what an impact on somebody's life you can have on such a world-wide scale that without being a part of Rotary I would never been able to do.
"I always tell my kids it's easy just to do the right thing, and I think Rotary is so much about doing the right thing."
Dr. Larry Anderson spoke next, and gave a short history of the club. Anderson was a founding member of the Rotary Club of Snellville before coming to Dawson.
Anderson said that classifications were strict when he was a member in the late 1980s, and that Rotary at that time would only allow one representative of each profession from the community.
He also said that Rotarians wore their pins all the time, not just at meetings.
Attendance was also strictly enforced, with members having to make 60 percent of the meetings each quarter, and had to stay for 60 percent of the meeting. If members missed two meetings in a row and didn't notify the board, Rotary could dismiss them from the club.
Also speaking at the celebration was Dr. Ed Holton, who joined the club in 1997. Holton has been working to prepare a history of the Dawson Rotary.
Holton spoke about the club's dedication to the Margie Weaver Senior Center.
"We started off by supporting Meals on Wheels for a month," Holton said. "We have continued to support the center. There's a lot of chairs and tables and refrigerators and washing machines and everything else at the Senior Center that have been projects for different presidents."
Holton also said that the club started with 31 members and now has doubled in size.
"There's probably people here who think that this is just not the club they joined back in 1992, or 1993, or 1994...but no it's not. It's not the club you joined, it's better," Holton said.