Monday Morning Coffee with Downtown Rotary

bentonclubFew organizations in northwest Missouri carry the level of myth and lore as Rotary Club #32, known as Downtown Rotary.

Members stride in and out of the historic Benton Club every Tuesday, enjoying a meal, fellowship and updates on community service projects both locally and nationally. However, it’s the atmosphere itself of the two-story Southerrn-inspired Benton Club that may be the source of misconception, and sometimes humor.

Many still think old-school images of gentlemen business leaders in suits, smoking cigars and maybe a spot of Scotch in shiny wood-paneled rooms — or deep within the Benton Club at the famous bar area (with an artwork theme and style that’s … well … all its own, you could say). Certainly the Benton Club is the setting of many historical “deals gone down” and business relationships carried out over long afternoons as early leaders mapped out their futures.

That still happens today, but within a totally different environment.

What was in its early years (Downtown Rotary was founded in 1911) a males-only setting is now a welcoming atmosphere for weekly meetings, with an almost equal mix of male and female business leaders, community volunteers and longtime members. Guest speakers each week share insights with the group about new initiatives happening in St. Joseph, and members are always encouraged to bring guests and new members in the doors.

Few may realize the impact of the Downtown Rotary Club and other Rotary clubs across northwest Missouri from a philanthropic perspective. Nationally, there are more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in 200 countries. Rotary itself is more than 100 years old, started in 1905 by Paul P. Harris to encourage local relationships based on service and to recognize ethical standards among professionals. The motto “Service Above Self” holds true today, with the club working toward service projects including scholarships for students, shoes for orphans, youth exchange programs and participation in international relief efforts.

These projects and many others are changing are encouraging a new brand image and face of Rotary, reflecting national efforts to draw in young leaders. Today SJC recognizes and honors the accomplishments and service contributions of this century-old club, and encourages anyone with an interest in “Service Above Self” to become part of the three active Rotary Clubs in St. Joseph.

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