By Charlotte Underwood
LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – The South Campbell County Rotary Club celebrated 50 years this month. In honor of this occasion, a billboard has been on display along the four lane in Jacksboro, and several Rotarians shared with WLAF what it means to be in Rotary.
Over the past five decades, the South Campbell County Rotary Club has participated in multiple local and international projects bettering both the community and the world as a whole; which as a “service club” is what Rotary is all about.
The South Campbell County Rotary Club was chartered in November of 1972; records indicate it was chartered either on Nov. 17 or Nov. 30 of that year. Members were from LaFollette, Jacksboro and Caryville.
Charter members of the original Campbell County Rotarians included: Hack Ayers, Jack Alexander, Vic Baird, Robert P. Ball Jr., Donn Claiborne, Earl Coppage, John Couch, Russ Dunham, Marvin Ellis, Wheeler Hollingsworth, Elmer Hoskins, Gordon Keys, George Messing, Carl Tom Newcomb, James T. Nixon, Tommy Overton, Robert E. Sharp Sr., Floyd Shipwash, Larry Schultz, J. Wales Smith, Larry Smith, Phil Stephenson, Bob Stormer, Dr. Gerald Troutman, John Ward, and Eddie Wheeler. For that first charter year, Robert Ball served as president, Marvin Ellis as vice president and Larry Smith as the secretary/treasurer.
Since its inception, Rotary has been giving scholarships to deserving seniors, sponsoring local charitable organizations and honoring local citizens. Through Rotary International, the club also participates in world-wide projects, such as the fight against Polio.
Current Rotary Club President David Hickman said he was proud to be part of Rotary and “proud the club was still going strong after 50 years.”
Hickman recalled the first Rotary meeting he remembered attending was in 2007; he was 13 years old.
“Tennessee basketball player Dane Bradshaw had just finished his playing career for the Vols. He visited our club as he was out promoting his new book, Vertical Leap. I am a big Tennessee fan, and Bradshaw was a key member of the first Tennessee teams I can remember cheering for. Having the chance to meet him and hear him speak was a big deal. I was 13 years old, and my first Rotary meeting was a memorable one,” Hickman said. For fifty years, the South Campbell County Rotary Club has been making memories.
Early on Rotary was more of a “boy’s club,” according to Ann Ayers Colvin, who was among the early females to join the club in 1998. This coming March will be her 25th anniversary as a Rotarian. Other ladies that paved the way as some of the first women in Rotary included Shirley Asbury and Dolores Bartley. Bartley, now nearly 90, is an honorary lifetime member of Rotary. According to Ayers-Colvin, Asbury and Bartley were responsible for getting her involved in Rotary, as was founding member Hack Ayers.
“Dolores was my lady mentor and Hack Ayers was my male mentor and they were wonderful,” Ayers-Colvin recalled. That was 24 years ago, and during that time Rotary has seen many more female members join its ranks.
Members like Cyndi Russell who joined Rotary in 2010 and served as president in 2011. According to Russell, Rotary is a “great opportunity to make a difference in the community.”
“As a Rotarian I am aware of non-profit organizations that the club can support financially and with manpower. I am really proud of the groups we have been able to help. The Campbell County Children’s Center, 4-H, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, the Louie Bluie Festival in years past, the Caryville Cares Playground, Postmark LaFollette, CHET, CASA, Boys and Girls Scouts, The Imagination Library, the local schools with hygiene kits and school supplies. The list goes on and on locally,” Russell said.
LaFollette Utility General Manager and South Campbell County Rotary Club Treasurer Kenny Baird believes he is among the longest serving Rotarians at nearly 28 years. Baird became a Rotarian in March of 1995. He has spent more than 20 of those years serving as the treasurer for the club. Baird’s mentor was Gary Stooksbury, the “outgoing LaFollette Utilities General Manager.”
Baird said he enjoyed the friendships and connections that were part of Rotary Club and that his Rotary Club connections had come to mean a lot to him over the years.
“I’ve met so many people and made so many friendships that I otherwise wouldn’t have; Rotary brings people of different persuasions together. It’s a good place to get together to form plans to improve the community and the world,” Baird said.
According to Rotarian Zach Sheets Rotary is a “great opportunity to associate with similar-minded individuals in the community and work together to help the local community while also working toward change in the world.”
“Whether we are delivering dictionaries to third graders, helping to build beds for youth in need or contributing to anti-polio efforts world-wide, it is all about helping people and making a difference,” Sheets said.
In its effort to “make a difference,” the South Campbell County Rotary Club has participated in some groundbreaking projects over the years. One of Ayers-Colvin’s favorites was providing seed money for the Children’s Center, a project Rotary supported with $10,000 the year she was Rotary president.
Baird said that was one of the local projects he was most proud of as well.
“We’re also investing funds in the Caryville Cares Inclusive Playground project, and we help each year with other projects such as building beds for area kids with Sleep in Heavenly Peace, ” Baird said.
Caryville Cares Playground project Director and Rotarian Brandon Johnson has been in Rotary for the past five years. According to Johnson, the networking and connections provided through Rotary place club members in unique positions to help the community.
“In this room, with these members there are businesses and services to provide anything you need. It’s great to have that kind of networking through a civic club; it’s important to a community,” Johnson said.
Globally, Rotary participates in multiple projects every year to end Polio and to help provide clean drinking water, among other international outreach activities.
“We are able to support worldwide issues such as wells in Mexico for safe drinking water in their schools. I personally was able to travel to the Bahamas and work with their local club on a cleanup project of a dumping area that was destroying the local habitat,” Russell said.
The South Campbell County Rotary Club has dedicated “thousands of dollars and countless hours of work raising money to support the eradication of polio worldwide.”
“I am a very proud Rotarian. I have made some wonderful friends, made some great networking opportunities, and I would like to think I have helped my community,” Russell said.
On a local level, this past year Rotary provided hygiene items and supplies to area middle school students, as well as dictionaries to all Campbell County third graders. Each year the club also sponsors two high school students with scholarships, among other area projects such as Sleep in Heavenly Peace bed builds and other local donations to non profits.
“We care about Campbell County. The thing about Rotary that impresses me the most is our motto of service above self. Rotarians make a difference locally and globally. My experiences in Rotary have changed me and made me grow,” Ayers-Colvin said.
She describes the South Campbell County Rotary Club as a “connection with your peers, your community and your county.”
“Our club is concerned about how we can help others, on a local and global level and its a wonderful experience to be part of, ” Ayers-Colvin said.
Hickman said he felt honored to serve as president this year and to be a part of the community members that make up the South Campbell County Rotary Club.
“The motto of Rotary is “Service Above Self.” Our club has had many members that have used this motto in their daily lives….When these individuals come together as Rotarians, it forms an impressive group. I am honored to have been welcomed into the club and to serve as Club President for this year. I look forward to seeing what the next 50 years bring for the Rotary Club of South Campbell County,” Hickman said.
And a footnote: One of the members of the LaFollette Church of God called to tell WLAF that the church hosted Rotary for many years, and Mrs. Oneida Eubanks headed up the meal preparation for the Rotary Club for about 25 years. Mrs. Eubanks used the proceeds from the club members weekly lunches to also give back to the community in many different ways. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 11/28/2022-6AM-UPDATED 11/28/2022-10:30AM)