New Edwards Rotary Club holds first meeting |

New Edwards Rotary Club holds first meeting

Shannon Armstrong
NWS Edwards Rotary BH 7-8 Vail Daily/Bret Hartman Jan Strauch, president of the Vail Down Valley Rotary Club, speaks at Fiestas in Edwards Thursday during the inaugural Rotary RoVa meeting.

Call it a sign of the times or just business as usual for the ever growing Edwards business community – after two previous attempts and months of planning and preparation, Edwards now has its own Rotary Club. The inaugural meeting for the Edwards Rotary Chapter, or ‘DOVA’ as it’s being called (which stands for downvalley), was held Thursday morning at Fiesta’s, welcoming 36 new members along with a few Vail members who plan to change their affiliation to the Edwards branch. Edwards Rotary chapter President Jan Strauch, owner of Overland & Express Travel, was a member of the Vail Chapter for over 27 years. “I’m pleased to be involved with this new endeavor in the Edwards area. There have been a few attempts in the past to get a Rotary chapter started in Edwards, but the time just wasn’t right,” Strauch said. Six months ago Strauch and Loren Gifford, owner of Ace Hardware and former president of the Vail Rotary chapter, decided to join forces and give the Edwards concept a big push.Sandy Treat, longtime local businessman and philanthropist, also agreed to help get the Edwards chapter off the ground. “When Sandy said he’d serve as membership chairman, I knew we had a good shot at getting the Edwards Chapter going,” Strauch said. “Sandy’s friendly, he’s easy to talk to and he knows many business people in the valley. He really deserves the credit for getting so many new members to sign up today.”‘We’re all friends’ The Vail Rotary Club boasts some 120 members while the Eagle Chapter has around 25 active members and although some may lament the fact the valley has grown large enough to field a third Rotary Club, others see it as a great opportunity to improve community service in an area that has become a hub of the Vail Valley.

“The business growth in Edwards the past five years has been unbelievable and there is now a strong need for more community service here,” Gifford said. The Vail and Eagle Chapters of Rotary are kind of like the parents of the Edwards Charter, he said. “We all saw the need for an Edwards chapter and we view this as a valleywide coalition,” Gifford said. Strauch agreed, saying “We’re all friends and the three groups will work together when it makes sense, although each chapter will have its own projects and separate fund-raising activities.” Strauch also said that Rotary has three main focuses: to be in fellowship with each other, to promote education and to participate in the community with a sense of purpose.The Edwards chapter also gets bragging rights as a “centennial” charter Rotary Club because it was created in the 100th year of Rotary’s existence. President-elect Bob Brown, who also serves as general manager of Colorado Mountain News Media, parent company of the Vail Daily, explained that Rotary first came into existence in 1905 in the Chicago area, starting with five businessmen who saw a need to support one another in their business endeavors. They decided on the name “Rotary” because their meetings would rotate among the various offices of those involved at the time.Happening placeLongtime local and Rotary history buff Steve Miller, who has served as a Vail Rotarian for 22 years, said one of the first ways Rotary reached out to business at the turn of the century was to persuade businesses to provide public restrooms to their patrons. At first this was not seen as a very important role for a business, until owners realized that having a public restroom available served as a great way to draw customers into their shops and restaurants.

Since then Rotary has grown nationally and internationally with chapters in over 166 countries, 31,500 clubs and more than 1.6 million members world wide.”Rotary is kind of like one big hairnet covering the globe,” Gifford said. “We have clubs in just about every corner of the world. Those living in third world countries really benefit from Rotary’s influence with the health care and educational services we provide.”In the Vail Valley, one of Rotary’s most significant contributions is the Eagle Valley Rotary Scholarship Foundation. This past spring Rotary awarded $42,000 to graduating seniors. Gifford said that although Rotary is awards many scholarships to seniors on their way to college, they also support students graduating from the Red Canyon School who pursue vocational studies. While many organizations are willing to support higher education, there is a need to promote occupational interests for high school graduates in the valley as well, Gifford said.Edwards resident and club member Dudley Irwin says he’s excited to be involved with Rotary and sees it as a way to give back to the community.”Edwards is a happening place and this is a great way to get more involved,” Irwin said. SIDEBAR: Rotary has history of helping outRotary Club historian Steve Miller outlined some of the service work Rotary has done in Vail over the years:• In the early 1990s Vail did not have an emergency call system in place. After several immigrants were asphyxiated on Vail Pass in a broken-down vehicle, Rotary spent $8,000 to install Vail’s first 911 emergency system.

• Helped fund the first expansion of the Vail Valley Medical Center.• Built bus shelters at the bus stops around the valley.• Sponsors child health screenings held twice a year.• Hosts a job fair at Battle Mountain High School each spring. • Donates new dictionaries to every third grader in the valley at Christmas time.• Runs the annual Gore Creek Rubber Duck, which raises funds for early childhood education, the Eagle Valley Rotary Scholarship Foundation, and Vail Mountain Search and Rescue, among other nonprofit organizations. – Shannon ArmstrongEdwards RotaryFor more information about the DOVA ‘Downvalley’ Edwards Rotary Club, call Jan Strauch at 926-9206

Support Local Journalism