History of District 7070


From "Under the Northern Lights"

Canadian history at www.canadaclubs.org

Edited or written by Rotary Global History historian PDG Jim Angus

District 7070 Zone 24

Rotary came to Ontario to what is now District 7070 when the Rotary Club of Toronto was chartered in 1913. No more clubs were formed until 1920, when Clubs were chartered in Belleville, Guelph, and Oshawa. The number of Clubs increased steadily and by 1956, the District (then 247) had sixty clubs in an area that extended from Belleville and Picton on the east to Guelph and Alliston on the west and north as far as La Sarre in Quebec. In 1957 District 247 was divided into District 707(0), with thirty-two clubs, and District 701(0), with twenty-eight clubs. By 1986, the number of Clubs in District 7070 had increased to sixty-five and further redistricting was necessary. Seventeen Clubs on the west side were moved to a new District 7080. Today, District 7070 has fifty-three clubs with twenty-three hundred members and extends from Picton west to Metropolitan Toronto. Four international conventions have been held in the District, all in Toronto.

The District has been blessed with outstanding leaders, including four directors and two vice-presidents, and one President of Rotary International , Wilfrid J. Wilkinson from Trenton, Ontario  VP (1993-94) and the President in 2007-2008 and Robert S. Scott from Cobourg  VP (1997-98). Both men played senior roles in the PolioPlus campaign. Scott was a member of the PolioPlus Committee and the PolioPlus Partners Committee. He is currently Chair of the Polio Eradication Advocacy Task Force. He also served as Chair of the Trustees of The Rotary Foundation. Wilkinson served as a trustee of The Rotary Foundation, too, and is Chair of The Trustees in 2011-12 and currently represents Canada as one of twenty-three PolioPlus National Advocacy Advisors. Wilkinson also has the signal honour of chairing the 2005 Chicago Convention Committee, and was RI President for the years 2007-08. Tibor. P. Gregor from the Toronto Club served as RI Director from1980-82, and RI treasurer in 1981-82. He also served as a trustee of The Rotary Foundation and on a number of other international committees. He chaired the 1983 Toronto International Convention Committee. John J. Gibson, Toronto, served as director in 1923-24 and acted as assistant treasurer. He chaired the 1924 Toronto International Convention Committee.

District 7070, like all the other districts in Zone 24, has been involved in a wide variety of service projects.

Community Service

According to the historian of the Rotary Club of Scarborough, the Club “remains close and responsive to the needs of the community and those in distress overseas.” Projects to relieve distress overseas will be discussed later; ways by which the Club has responded to some of the community’s needs are discussed here. For more than twenty years, the Club worked closely with the Crippled Children’s Society and helped with the Stuffing Bee in the annual Easter Seals Campaign. Regular contributions are made to the Toronto Zoo and, in 1996, the Club raised forty thousand dollars to help finance a wildlife conservation centre. Between 1993 and 1995, several clubs in the District, including Scarborough, funded the Rain Forest exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre.

The Rotary Club of Oshawa has also demonstrated concern for the environment. A current project, started in 1999, is the renaturalization of a city park. In partnership with local schools, the City of Oshawa, and Friends of the Second Marsh, the Club plans to convert Farewell Park into an outdoor classroom with trees, shrubs, a butterfly meadow, pioneer cedar rail fencing, chip paths, and signs. While the schools will use the park as a natural laboratory where the great lessons in nature can be demonstrated, older citizens will enjoy the birds, butterflies, and other natural phenomenon in the park.

Chartered in 1976, the Rotary Club of Oshawa Parkwood has found some unique ways to serve its community. In 1978, they started a Skate-a-thon. Organized in partnership with the local Ice Council, the event involves the participation of minor hockey and ringette teams, and figure skating clubs. Prizes are awarded and funds raised are distributed among the participating teams and the Rotary Club. Now in its thirty-third year, the project is the second longest running Skate-a-thon in Canada and has raised more than half a million dollars for the support of the teams and the Club’s community service projects. One of the added values of the project is the fact that it gives the young participants a sense of supporting not only their sports but also the community at large.

Another interesting project launched by the Oshawa-Parkwood Club in co-operation with the Optimist Club of Ajax and the Durham Region Police is the Kids Safety Village of Durham Region. The million dollar scaled down village, staffed and operated by the Durham Region Police, was opened in September 1995. To date, more than fifteen thousand children between kindergarten and Grade 3 have been able to learn street safety in a controlled environment. Although only members of a small Club, it is quite clear that the Parkwood Rotarians serve their community with enthusiasm and pride.

A few years ago, the Rotary Club of Toronto donated Canada’s first Health Bus to Wellesley Central Hospital. The thirty-six-foot-long vehicle is equipped with a waiting room, two examining areas, a laboratory, and an immunization corner. Services include nursing care (provided by volunteer professionals), dressings, physicals, over the counter medication, foot care, and mental health services, as well as counselling and referrals. The Health Bus provides the means to bring these services to fifty per cent of Toronto’s homeless, street youth, mentally ill, drug addicts, and working poor. Late in 2002, the Ontario government authorized the transfer of the vehicle to Sherbourne Health Centre, which continues to operate it. This urban health initiative served nearly thirteen thousand clients in 2003.

The Rotary Club of Bowmanville, now in its eightieth year, has participated in a host of durable community service projects. In 1931, the Club raised enough money to purchase a site on Queen Street and developed it into Rotary Park. In 1940, the Club established a skating rink in Rotary Park. In 1957, Rotarians renovated the ground floor of the old post office to create a new home for the town library. In 1962, they sponsored a Rubinoff violin concert in Trinity Church. Rubinoff later performed for the local high school students. During the 1960s, the Club purchased land bordering Soper Creek for a seventeen-acre recreation area. Later, to celebrate the Club’s fiftieth anniversary, the Rotarians spent seventy-two thousand dollars developing the property and, in 1974, turned it over to the town of Bowmanville. Between 1965 and 1975, the Club donated one hundred and thirty thousand dollars to local charities. In 1987, the Club entered a float in the Santa Claus Parade and won first prize. This continues to be an annual event. The first of many sports celebrity dinner fundraisers was held in 1989 in the new Recreation Centre with Bobby Orr as guest speaker. The dinner raised thirty-five thousand dollars for a new arena. In 1991, the Rotarians helped school children plant seventeen thousand five hundred trees in local areas. Clearly, Bowmanville has benefited considerably through the years from the presence of its Rotary Club.

The Rotary Club of Campbellford has been closely associated with the town and has provided many community services. The most recent project, carried out in partnership with several organizations, is the construction of a unique ninety-metre (three hundred foot) suspension bridge across the Trent River at Ranney Falls, a half mile down stream from the town. Inspired by the suspension bridge over the Capilano Canyon in British Columbia, Past President Bob Connor conceived the idea of a similar bridge connecting the town’s nature trails along both sides of Trent Waterway as a means of stimulating tourism. He sold the idea to the Club and they began working on the project. They examined suspension bridges in Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and on a skidoo trail in Manitoba. The scheme was put on hold for a number of years because of a lack of resources. Eventually, the power of Rotary’s reputation and influence prevailed and the local Rotarians were able to negotiate not only the acceptance of the project, but also the financial support of a number of local, provincial, and federal departments and agencies. Parks Canada, Ontario Power Generation, Ontario Hydro Services Co., and Ferris Provincial Park gave permission for the bridge to use their property and became partners in the scheme. The town council and the provincial government gave approval and financial support, but the greatest coup was the consent of the Department of National Defence to allow its engineers to build the bridge, free of charge, as a training exercise. With funding assured and plans prepared, a special groundbreaking ceremony, with all the partners present, took place in September 2002.

The metal bridge extending some eighteen metres (sixty feet) above the bed of the river was completed in the autumn of 2003. An official opening was held in the spring of 2004. The total cost was about four hundred thousand dollars. The Rotary Club contributed fifty thousand dollars, Ontario Power Generation gave ten thousand dollars, Campbellford’s Community Foundation contributed funds, and the Ontario Government’s Superbuild program paid the balance.

The Rotary Club of Pickering has served its community with distinction. Its very first major project in 1945 saw the establishment of Rotary Park with an ice rink. The Club sponsored many hockey teams. Other projects included: support for the Pickering Museum; the erection of a large electronic sign to promote community activities; the creation of the twelve kilometre Waterfront Trail and Park along the Lake Ontario waterfront; and, in October 2001, Rotary Frenchmen’s Bay West Park was officially opened.

Many Rotary Clubs combine fundraising with community service. The Rotary Club of Cobourg has discovered an extremely profitable community service project in the annual Cobourg Arts and Crafts Festival, now in its thirteenth year. Other partners in the event are the Town of Cobourg, the Cobourg Chamber of Commerce, and the Cobourg Lions Club. Rotary’s contributions to the waterfront festival include a major arts and crafts show, an amusement area and midway, a food court, and a covered entertainment stage. The festival is perhaps the largest show of its kind in Ontario. Tour bus companies book tours to the festival. Attendance at the 2002 Rotary Arts and Crafts Show reached an estimated fifty thousand. Special attractions that year were the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and the Skyhawks Parachute Jumping Team. In each of the past five years, proceeds have exceeded one hundred thousand dollars. The event has enabled the Cobourg Rotary Club to pledge a half million dollars to the Northumberland Health Centre, two hundred thousand to the library, and one hundred thousand dollars to the PolioPlus campaign.

The recently chartered Toronto-Beach Rotary Club will celebrate the centennial of Rotary by launching its first major community project. The Club plans to spend seventy-five thousand dollars to restore historic Gardener’s Cottage to its original Victorian lustre. Located in beautiful Kew Gardens Park on the shore of Lake Ontario, the cottage was built between 1890 and 1902 by Kew Williams as a gift for his bride, hence its original nickname The Honeymoon Cottage. The small, quaint cottage was an addition to the main house that is said to have had forty rooms, built by Kew’s father. Kew and his bride lived in the cottage until 1907, when Toronto expropriated the property for a park. The cottage survived the flattening of other nearby cottages, and became the residence of the groundskeeper or gardener, giving the cottage its present name. Once the restoration is complete, the cottage will be made available for community events, such as art shows and community gatherings.

Service to Youth

Clubs in District 7070, like most other Rotary Clubs in Zone 24, participate regularly in the High School Exchange program and Group Study Exchanges, and have developed some unique youth programs of their own.

Each year during the 1980s and 1990s, the Rotary Club of Toronto sponsored Camp Enterprise, a three day seminar covering business topics for young people. The camp was held at Camp Bolton in a scenic wooded setting about forty kilometres (twenty-five miles) north of Toronto. More than fifteen District clubs participated actively in the program which mixed recreation with seminar discussions. Between thirty to fifty Grades 12 and 13 students were given insights into career opportunities in business, some disciplines they might study, and information about the “world of work.” The students spent two nights in the residences with their instructors and some Rotarians. Inspiring speakers addressed them and competitive business games were arranged.

The Rotary Club of Scarborough’s business education liaison (BELL.) with Winston Churchill Collegiate proved to be very successful. In the first year, five projects were completed by students, teachers, and Rotarians. In March 1960, the Bowmanville Rotary Club participated in the first of many Career Nights in Orono High School, with students, parents, and teachers. The Rotary Club of Toronto-Eglinton has consistently focused its efforts on projects for less fortunate young people. One of its first projects was the construction of a one hundred and forty thousand dollar school for mentally handicapped children. Operated originally by the Metropolitan Toronto Association for Retarded Children, the school was later taken into the public school system. Another project was Trail, a camp for disadvantaged teenagers. The Club built a one hundred and fifty thousand dollar pavilion, which houses a library and other educational facilities for disadvantaged youngsters who, after leaving the camp, continue to receive private counselling. Many go on to community colleges or universities. With the assistance of the Jamaican Ministry of Education, the Club’s Project Workshop provides training in various trades. The Eglinton Club purchased a fishing boat for St. Christopher & Nevis (St. Kitts) and provided training in fishing. Until then, all the fish on the island were imported.

Proposed by the Toronto-Don Valley Rotary Club, the Whynot Marathon was a joint project by a large number of Rotary Clubs across Canada, The Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons, and Royal LePage. Starting simultaneously, on 28 May 1996, Paralympic torches were carried from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Victoria, B.C., and arrived in Toronto on 24 July. In August, a single torch was taken by Canada’s Paralympic athletes to the Paralympic Games in Georgia.

More than four hundred Rotary Clubs in Canada participated and encouraged the crowds to cheer-on the participants, who ran, in-line skated, walked, and wheelchaired the ten thousand kilometres from both coasts to Toronto. The runners were welcomed by local dignitaries in the towns and cities the caravan passed through. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien held a special presentation in Ottawa, and a large crowd witnessed Governor General Romeo LeBlanc light an Eternal Flame, which still burns in Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto.

International service

Improving Life in the Dominican Republic

Since the late 1990s, the Rotary Club of Whitby Sunrise has been extensively involved in humanitarian aid and community development initiatives in the Dominican Republic. The Club works in partnership with the Grey Sisters (Canadian nuns resident in Consuelo) and the recently chartered Rotary Club of Consuelo. The three-way partnership ensures that money and effort are concentrated in the areas of greatest need,giving local leaders the resources and support to raise the standard of living and quality of life of the Dominican people.

Projects have included sending containers of medical, school, and other needed supplies, building and renovating schools, providing disaster relief at the time of Hurricane Georges in 1998,and helping with the development of the fledgling Consuelo Rotary Club. Some of the projects were hands-on projects.

Every year, one or more groups of Rotarians travel to the Dominican Republic, at their own expense, to work on a variety of projects. Currently,the Sunrise Club and its partners are building a large addition to La Loma, an adult education centre that originated with the renovation of an old school by the Rotary Club of Midland in District 7010.

District 7070 recognized the humanitarian effort of the Whitby Sunrise Club by presenting it with an award for Outstanding International Service at the District Conference in 2001.

Red Measles Immunization in India

In 1979, Rotarians in District 7070 were shocked to learn from South India virologist Dr Jacob John that “five children in India died each and every minute of every hour of every day from the preventable disease of red measles.” The Rotary Club of Whitby under the leadership of Club member Dr. Ken Hobbs and with the support of other District leaders, decided to immunize millions of Indian children against the disease. Partial funding for the mammoth undertaking came from a Rotary Foundation 3H ( Health, Hunger and Humanity) grant of one hundred and eight-one thousand dollars, and the remaining four hundred and thirty-four thousand, four hundred dollars was covered by a grant from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

The first shipment of vaccine arrived in India later that year. Dr. Hobbs, with the support of his wife, Eva, and Past District Governor Krish Chitale, a key co-ordinator from Madras, worked tirelessly for twelve years in organizing the vaccination program. When it was finished in 1991, 5.5 million children had been vaccinated against measles. Other leaders from District 7070 who went to India to help with the organization were past district governors Francis Smith, Fred Black, David Kennedy, Paul McKelvey, and Wilfrid Wilkinson.

The project illustrates what can be achieved when service organizations like Rotary work co-operatively with government agencies like CIDA. Further, the experience gained in this program was helpful with the planning of the PolioPlus Program in the 1980s. Quite deservedly, in 2003, PDG Ken Hobbs was awarded the Order of Canada for his service to the children of the Third World in protecting them from life-threatening diseases.

AIDS Awareness and Education

In 1996, the Rotary Club of Whitby launched another major health initiative-- a program of AIDS awareness and education. Since AIDS involves children in many parts of the world, the program was named Kids Kount … Around the Globe. The motto of the program is:

It’s not Black!

It’s not White!

It’s AIDS!

Kids Kount … Around the Globe!

The originator of the Whitby program was Joanne Ashley, a Club member since 1995 and the first female president of the Club in 1998-99. Joanne’s youngest brother died of AIDS in 1991. The Club rallied behind Joanne’s efforts, developing several activities to focus attention on AIDS. The first was an HIV-AIDS Tribute Quilt, measuring 292 centimetre (115 inches) by 208 centimetres (82 inches) with sixty-four personal tribute squares and six squares for the Rotary logo. Known as the Travelling Tribute Quilt, it was taken to International and District Rotary meetings, churches, libraries, and schools, stimulating people to talk about AIDS. Other projects initiated by the Club included production in 2001 of a video – Testing 1 – 2 – 3. An Odyssey newspaper is distributed annually at District Conferences, and workshops and plenary sessions have been held at conferences. The Club is a founding member of the World Rotary Aids Project (WRAP). There has been communication with Rotary Clubs in Africa and the Whitby Club has applied to The Rotary Foundation for a matching grant to support a project addressing mother-to-child transmission of AIDS in Zimbabwe.

Disaster Relief and Refugees

Clubs in District 7070 are generous contributors to disaster relief, the plight of refugees, and the needs of Third World hospitals. In 1977, the District raised one hundred and sixty-three thousand dollars to build sixty-three homes for victims of an earthquake in India, and a further ninety-six thousand dollars to build homes for displaced farmers in Brazil. The District collected clothes and medical supplies for Poland. Several needy children in India, who slept in squalid street conditions, rested more comfortably on slumber kits donated by District Rotarians. In 1981, a hospital in Brazil needed help with an intensive care unit, so members of the Scarborough Rotary Club became scroungers and sent more than sixty thousand dollars worth of medical equipment to the hospital. In 1995, the Scarborough Club shipped another thirty thousand dollars worth of medical supplies to St. Lucia. The Toronto-Don Mills Rotary Club funded an eye hospital in India and provided seed money for a tuberculosis hospital in Johannesburg.

In 1980, to celebrate the seventy fifth anniversary of Rotary, the Toronto-Forest Hill Rotary Club demonstrated the true meaning of international understanding and goodwill by sponsoring a Vietnamese boat family. In addition to raising the necessary funds, the Club arranged living accommodation, home furnishings, clothing, and general guidance for the family as they struggled to establish a new life in Canada. Club members generally agree that the project, which had the enthusiastic support of Club members and their spouses, was one of their most rewarding undertakings.

In 1993 clubs from Districts 7070, 7080, and 7010 collected and shipped one hundred and fifty tons of clothing and blankets to Austria for distribution by Rotary and the Red Cross to refugees of the war in Bosnia and Croatia. The original shipment of twenty-eight containers cost over fifty thousand dollars and used up most of the funds that the districts had collected. The clothes kept coming and eventually an additional twenty containers were received. The donations were stored in the Howell warehouses in Toronto. Rotarian John Hansen loaned a baling machine to the organizing committee, which enabled the Rotarians to reduce the volume to twelve containers. The funding problem was resolved when Mercy International agreed to ship the goods to Austria. The containers bore the following inscription: “Gift from Rotary Clubs – Canada to refugees and displaced persons in co-operation with the Red Cross.”

One of the most unusual commodities shipped by Rotarians to a Third World country was a herd of two hundred and fifty thoroughbred Holstein cattle sent to Haiti as part of Heifers for Haiti. The ambitious plan originated with Ken Davis, a member of the Rotary Club of Toronto. On a visit to Haiti in 1976, Davis was surprised to learn that there were no cows in Haiti, and that Haitian children were denied the calcium, protein, and vitamins that fresh milk could provide. He wondered about the possibility of Rotary solving this problem by sending a herd of cattle to Haiti as a foundation for a new dairy industry. He discussed the idea with the Petion-Ville Rotary Club in Port-au-Prince and got a commitment from the Club to participate in the project. The Haitian Rotarians agreed to maintain and distribute the cattle if, and when, they arrived.

The plan that Davis had in mind was too large for one club to handle, so he discussed the project with District Governor Norm Guild. Guild agreed to make Heifers for Haiti a District project, but it became more than that. The novelty of the scheme appealed to Rotarians all over Ontario and many clubs supported the project with dollars and some even sent cows. Air Canada agreed to fly the cattle to Haiti in a cargo airplane, at a reasonable cost. Funds to purchase the cattle and the cost of transporting them came from contributions and a grant from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Two flights were required to transport the herd, with one hundred and twenty-five cows and some bulls on each flight. Onlookers probably thought that they were witnessing the last big cattle drive in Ontario when they saw truckloads of cattle driven onto a runway at Toronto’s Pearson Airport and climb up a ramp into an airplane. The cattle stood in small pens, four or five to a pen.

Rotarian Tom DeGeer, a veterinarian and a member of the Toronto-Eglinton Rotary Club, flew to Haiti in advance of the cattle to help with their arrival. They made a noisy entrance. Tom discovered that Air Canada did not have a portable airconditioner to keep the plane cool when the engines are shut off. He was able to borrow an air conditioner from American Airlines and probably prevented the death of many of the animals from excessive heat.

The animals were required to walk down a ramp made of sheets of aluminium with a rough surface, but the ramp’s angle of descent was too steep for the cows to walk down. They lost their footing and, bawling their displeasure, slid down the ramp into the waiting trucks below. None was injured.

The project was marginally successful. The Rotarians had wanted the herd located in one spot managed by a herdsman who would teach local farmers some animal husbandry, but that did not happen. The animals on the first flight were distributed around the country to farmers who did not know how to milk the cows, so they ate them. Some animals on the second flight fared better, and today a few of their descendants can still be seen in the Haitian countryside.

District 7070 clubs do not forget the needs of refugees and disaster victims at home. For example, the Rotary Club of Toronto provides funds for Nellie’s Hostel, a haven for abused women. In 1997, the Toronto Club funded a health bus to serve the homeless and disadvantaged in downtown Toronto. In 1999, the Scarborough Club joined with other clubs and raised fifty thousand dollars in disaster relief for victims of flooding on the Red River in Manitoba and the Saguenay River in Quebec.

International Conventions

The Rotary Club of Toronto hosted International Conventions in 1924, 1942, 1964, and 1983. More than nine thousand Rotarians and spouses from twenty-eight nations attended the 1924 convention, making it the largest convention held to that date. The principal meetings were held in the coliseum at the Canadian National Exhibition Park. The Globe reported that the Exhibition Grounds were transformed into a scene of rare beauty and brilliance for a grand march and the President’s Ball. The House of Friendship was inaugurated at this convention. The 1942 convention attracted seven thousand attendees, which far exceeded expectations, given the wartime conditions in which it was held. The 1964 convention hosted fourteen thousand six hundred and sixty-one The 1983 convention was a very successful event with more than sixteen thousand attending.