Posted on Mar 01, 2023

Rotary Club celebrates 100th anniversary

By Briana Alzola
Rotary Club

The Anacortes Rotary Club marked 100 years since it received its charter with a special party Thursday, Feb. 23. The celebration focused on the club's history of leadership and giving back to help the community. It took place 100 years to the day of a big party celebrating the new club.

The March 1, 1923, edition of the Anacortes American announced the charter with the headline "ANACORTES ROTARY CLUB RECEIVES CHARTER FROM DISTRICT GOVERNOR."   "Anacortes Rotary club No. 1,801 was admitted into Rotary Monday night by the district governor and welcomed by the presidents of the Rotary clubs of Seattle, Everett, Mt. Vernon, Sedro-Woolley, Bellingham and Victoria, in the presence of more than 100 visiting Rotarians with their wives and the wives of the members," the article reads. "It was charter night for Anacortes Rotarians and the official life of the club commenced under the most promising conditions; with the good wishes of all the northwest Rotarians presented by letter, by telegram and in person, Anacortes Rotarians received their charter. It was a Rotary night, good humor, good fellowship and hilarity were general, but always there was a note of seriousness of purpose for which Rotary stands."

Representatives from each of the other clubs that were included in the first party were included again this year, club member Duane Clark, who ran the committee for the event, said. It was great to celebrate with them 100 years after the first Rotarians celebrated together; "It was sort of magical," he said.

The party is just one part of the club's centennial celebration, which started with a big float in the July 4 parade. Since then, the club has also hosted a representative from 12 of its community partners, awarding them a plaque and hearing about the connection between them and the Rotary Club. Those partners include the School District, Island Health, fire, police and the Anacortes Schools Foundation. Many of the club's community partners have been involved with the club for most of its 100 years, Clark said.

In December, the club held a party on the day it originally signed its charter.  Then, there was this big celebration, Clark said.  Service projects are also helping celebrate. A trail from Rotary Park to the top of Cap Sante is now open, with easy-to-navigate trails and new signage opened in June. More work is planned at the viewpoint on the top.  All the planning for the Centennial started about five years ago, Clark said.  A program handed out to party attendees included many messages of support for the club, including those from past and present mayors Dean Maxwell, Laurie Gere and Matt Miller.

"Congratulations to Anacortes Rotary and your milestone celebration of 100 years serving the Anacortes community," Maxwell wrote in his message. "The value of the work of your club in Anacortes over your century of service is easily in the millions of dollars. The impact of each one of your club projects has helped to change the profile of the community we all love in many positive ways. You have also changed many lives for individuals who might, without your help, never have had an opportunity to better themselves. Serving as Anacortes’s mayor for 20 years, I witnessed your accomplishments firsthand. They are too numerous to list individually, but the community has appreciated and benefitted with every project you took on and touched."

The program also included a look at Anacortes Rotary Club's history through clippings from the Anacortes American, plus a look at what features have lasted through the century, like leadership, youth enrichment and members getting their hands dirty to complete projects like planting tulip bulbs and cleaning up beaches.

"Woven throughout most months of the past 100 years is the highest devotion to the current and future well-being of Anacortes’s young people from the earliest years through high school and college," the program's section on youth enrichment reads. "Initiatives, some standard and some very creative, addressed, encouraged and supported issues of health, education, recognition, athletics and all the various forms of artistic expression. Students of the Month, foreign exchange students and summer employment opportunities became traditional offerings from Rotary’s earliest days."  The club has often also been involved with parks in town. Before it even received its charter, it helped develop Causland Park to honor World War I veterans.

In looking back at its history, the club honored its first president Ben Driftmier Sr.  "Ben Driftmier Sr. was a remarkable president, setting a high bar for all of those who followed him," the program reads. "He was a member for almost 47 years, having perfect weekly attendance for 36 of those years. The first meeting that he missed in 1969 was on May 28. He then attended the following meeting on June 4, and passed away six days later, on June 10."  Driftmier's grandson and his granddaughter and their spouses were featured guests at this event.


A full list of presidents included every person that served between Driftmier and current president Rick Star.  The club also celebrated its service projects, which it has been completing in many forms for the last century with its partners and community organizations like the City of Anacortes, the Anacortes School District, the Salvation Army and more. It also completes international service projects.

In fact, throughout the last 100 years, a member of the Anacortes Rotary Club has served in a project on almost every continent, according to the club. It also leads an exchange program for students.  During this centennial year, the club is focused on two international projects. One is providing services like clean water, health care and education to 30 villages in Honduras, a project it is teaming up with 12 other clubs to complete. The other project is getting supplies to Ukraine.  The club also works on vocational service, such as working on early literacy and providing scholarships to students.

The Anacortes Rotary Club hosted its first major fundraiser in 1941, an all-male cast performance of "Just Married." Fundraising has continued to grow and in the last 15 years or so, the club has brought in between $70,000 and $100,000 a year to support giving and programs in the community.