AUGUSTA — From being a driving force in reopening Bicentennial Nature Park, creating the Augusta Dog Park, renovating bedrooms and building new bunk beds at Bread of Life shelter, Augusta Rotary Club members have left their mark on the city.

They are relatively few in numbers with barely more than 20 members. But they’re a busy bunch.

“It’s nice to meet others interested in being active in the community and helping others — it’s a bunch of over-achievers,” Denise Adams, of Augusta, said of what she likes about the club. “And I know, on Rotary projects, my time is used well. We can get a lot done in a short amount of time.”

The club members and their guests, including other local Rotary clubs and their district governor, celebrated the club’s 100th anniversary Friday night.

The Augusta Rotary Club received its charter on July 1, 1916.

In recent years the club has performed significant community services:

• raising thousands of dollars in each of the last few years to first help reopen and then maintain the city-owned Bicentennial Nature Park on Three Cornered Pond;

• providing $9,000 to create the Augusta Dog Park at Mill Park;

• building raised garden beds at Maine Veterans’ Home so residents in wheelchairs there who like to garden could continue to do so in their later years;

• putting on an annual Christmas party with gifts for five students each from each of the city’s four elementary schools;

• starting and helping run a since discontinued “Feed the Kids” program which provided dinners in the school cafeteria at Lincoln Elementary School;

• a current project providing at least 100 children’s books to Lithgow Library;

• bell-ringing for the Salvation Army before Christmas;

• and helping out in various ways with the local food bank, Boys and Girls Club, an inmate garden at Kennebec County jail, recent opiate forums, building local playgrounds and, with the Augusta Kiwanis Club, an annual food drive.

“Rotary attracts the kind of people who do things for others,” said member David Kahl. “That’s in line with the motto — ‘Service Above Self.'”

The Rotarians have planned a handful of special events during the club’s centennial year, organized by Arlene Gagnon, leader of the club’s centennial committee. They include, tentatively, a petanque tournament, a blood drive, a Christmas gathering with other area Rotary clubs, a presentation on polio and Rotary International’s ongoing efforts to eradicate the disease worldwide and an outing in Mill Park.

“It’s going to be an exciting year, our centennial,” said Rebecca Hayward, of Farmingdale, outgoing club president and a four-year member.

Gagnon, of Manchester, is a past club president with 23 years as a member of the club with perfect attendance at club meetings, which are at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Gagnon also volunteers with other organizations, including the Lions Club, Salvation Army and her church.

“Rotary is one of my passions,” she said, explaining why she’s been an active member for so long.

John McLaughlin, of Manchester, the club’s incoming president, plans a change to the club’s meeting schedule to have one meeting a month dedicated to volunteer work.

“We’ll do hands-on service to help in the community,” McLaughlin said. “Putting our shoulder to the wheel for at least (another) hour a month. Adding some variety and strength to the club as a whole.”

The club works with other service clubs, particularly the local Kiwanis Club, engaging in friendly competitions to see who can raise the most funds for local projects. Like Gagnon, several Rotarians are also members of other local nonprofit organizations.

Melissa Winchester, of Gardiner, a club member since 2002, said she found fellowship with others with a passion for helping in the club.

“I’ve always been a volunteer,” she said, noting local club members contribute to Rotary International’s efforts to help “the neediest of the neediest” such as through its efforts to eradicate polio. “Rotary is made up of individuals who want to get involved in their community.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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