The Rotary Club of Kitchener-Conestoga
The Club was founded on June 25, 1971 with the purpose of expressing the objectives of Rotary, by supporting local community causes but also having a strong international focus – a direction that continues to this day.
The Club meets every Friday at noon at the Westmount Golf & Country Club to enjoy fellowship and a guest speaker. On special event Fridays, the location of the meeting may change depending on the purpose. Club members are expected to maintain an average attendance of 66% or better and can attend the meetings of other Rotary Clubs to fulfill this requirement. Developing new friendships, as well as professional and business associations, is a major benefit of membership in Rotary. Since its inception, the Club has remained one of the largest in Waterloo Region.
In addition to the regular Friday meetings, there are other events for members and for their significant others. These include Golf Days, the Family Picnic, Theatre Night, Ski Day, Trap Shooting, President’s Night, The District 7080 conference and the annual Rotary International Convention.
Our Charitable Projects
Over the five decades of fun and fellowship the Club has been fortunate to have made a difference with both its International and Community projects. Since the beginning, it is estimated the Club has raised over $12 million for charitable causes, raising approximately $500,000 annually.
From the beginning our focus has been on international projects that really made a difference.
Lobsterfest has been the Club’s signature fundraiser since 1972, specifically supporting our remarkable international projects. It was started in our first year and has become known throughout Ontario, raising over $2.6M, which has been usually matched to create $4.7M of benefit. With a third-world benefit cost ratio of 10, this would have amounted to about $47M of benefit if in Canada.
Occurring on a Friday evening close to June 1 each year, the Club hosts 1,000 members of the community to an “all you can eat” buffet of lobster and ribs, and a night of live entertainment and dancing. This fundraiser involves all our members, and many past members, and their families in work and fellowship.
- Strategic Partnerships
As Lobsterfest is limited to raising about $50K per year, the strategy was to use our contacts and reputation to develop strategic partners that would significantly contribute both funds and truly meaningful projects. They would also use their knowledge and contacts to get leverage similar to that enjoyed by the most powerful and influential NGO’s.
A few of the partnerships we developed are:
- CARE Canada has been the largest and longest partner. KCRC has contributed $196,000 on 14 projects since 1972. Most recently we provided water wells for villages in Mozambique. For decades the Club was the largest service organization donor to CARE Canada.
- Children of Hope Uganda was the major recipient from 2010 to 2017. We contributed $192,000 to 6 projects focussed on education for the Aboke Girls and their children born during their captivity by the LRA, and in developing both vocational and early education schools in Barlonyo Village that had been the victim of the worst LRA massacre.
- Rotary District 9270: “Soul of Africa” Child Development Care Centres (CDCC): $168,000 2005-11.
- We partnered with RC Kitchener to support this comprehensive series of projects that helped rural villages in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, horribly affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic to develop strategies to enhance their capacity to care for the thousands of orphans. We were key donors to 10 of the 13 CDCC projects contributing $59,000, including $41,000 from our partner, Art For AIDS. Matching grants from The Rotary Foundation and Govt of Canada paid the balance. Club members visited CDCC communities twice.
- St. Joseph’s International Outreach:
- Haiti Earthquake: $48,620 2010. This support got urgent medical help to Pot-au-Prince before any other NGO.
- Uganda: Needy Women’s Purse: $11,400 2011. This project established critical supplies to save the lives of women coming to the hospital dying of birthing complications. It was estimated that it saved 50 lives in the first year.
- University Health Network: Childhood Malaria Biomarker: $27,830 2013. This project funded the final field clinical trial in Uganda to prove the simple biomarker that can be administered quickly to children in line at the rural clinics to identify those needing the immediate treatment that will save their lives. This technology could save millions of lives if it was in widespread use.
Many projects involved the Club taking full responsibility for their execution:
- Grassy Narrows: Wild Rice Production, Mercury Impact Video: $18,000 1978-80. This project was instrumental in changing Ontario policy about First Nations’ suffering due to mercury poisoning. The video was used by Grassy to obtain a $1.2M damages award.
- Stephen Lewis Foundation: Seed Start-up Funding: $58,000 2002. The Club provided critical start-up funding that allowed SLF to get properly established. Since 2003 SLF has provided $114M to programs fighting the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.
- Lwak Girl’s School: Western Kenya: Water & Sanitation: $114,000 2007-8. This school is the oldest and most important school for girls in Kenya. It water and sanitation systems were in desperate condition. We gathered a coalition of Rotary Clubs and individuals to deal with the problems.
- Warm Hearts of Africa (WHOA): Maeve-Ila Academy: Blantyre, Malawi
- Built the new school for poor children and orphans: $84,000 2011-14.
- James Vatista Memorial Bursary funding 50 children: $73,000 2014-19
- Funds were raised by WHOA in Vancouver, Toronto and KW.
- The Cloverleaf Foundation: Ndlovu Memorial Library, Gwanda, Zimbabwe:
- Expanded the library as it was the critical education resource for the rural Matabele community ostracised by the ruling Mugabe government.
- Extended the education services to the surrounding villages.
- $209,000 raised 2008-15: Club: $29,000, Cloverleaf $164,000, Rotary Foundation $16,000
Community Service Projects
- Rotary Dream Home
Thirty years ago, The Club became KW Rotary’s largest community service contributor when it took over a risky project started by one of our members and his friends. Since then the DreamHome raised $8,000,000 for important projects in KW, most focussing on health and women’s needs.
The first Rotary DreamHome established Anselma House into proper facilities on Ann Street. The cost of approximately $250,000 was levered by past mayor Harold Chapman by embarrassing the Ontario government into 100% of the funding.
The second year saw the Club fund the relocation of Big Sisters using the unspent funds and more.
The final few years of the project focused support to the Grand River and St. Mary’s hospitals. In the past few years major support was given to Strong Start, Child Witness Centre, and Carizon. Unfortunately, the realities of huge inflation in costs ended the project in 2018.
- The Christmas Turkey Drive
Every fall the Club members solicits friends, family and the KW community to donate money to make a memorable Christmas for over 8,000 needy families within the Waterloo Region. The project was started many years ago by our member, Barry Abelson, to purchase turkeys for less fortunate families.
This project now supports the House of Friendship Christmas Hamper program as well as several smaller urgent needs.
A fun late November afternoon is spent by our members and their families packing the thousands of hampers, which our members, along with many others in the community, help distribute.