The Rotary Club of East Jefferson County, or EJC Rotary as the Club is now usually known, has been a part of communities in eastern Jefferson County since it was chartered by Rotary International on June 21st, 1982, 38 years ago. 

 

The group that was to become the Club met in those early days at the well-known Ajax Cafe on the spit in Port Hadlock, across the street from what is now the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. Jim Humphrey was the Club’s first President, and dentist John Barrett, who remains a member to this day, the Club’s first President-Elect. 

Challenges were met head-on that first year. In the words recorded in the Club’s history that year, “Our first year was a struggle to survive”, as the Club had managed to attract only a handful of members - about 20 or so men, as women were not admitted into Rotary until 1989. The Port Townsend Rotary Club was of major assistance in setting our Club on the path to success, contributing both local grant money as well as advice and counsel to members of the new club.  

 

From the very first meeting, the Club focused on being of service in the local communities, which included the Olympic Peninsula towns of Port Hadlock, Irondale, Chimacum, and Port Ludlow, and the more distant communities of Quilcene and Brinnon, as well as the rural areas of Jefferson County.  

 

In fact, the Club’s very first major project, in mid-October, 1982, was supporting the Halcyon House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Quilcene. The Halcyon House ran out of funding, and approached the Club for support, without which it would have to close. Club members quickly raised $10,000 from among themselves - one member even borrowed another $5,000 from a local bank - to keep the Halcyon House in operation. The Club raised money the following spring by staffing a booth at the Jefferson County Airshow and at that year’s Hadlock Days celebration. While supporting the Halcyon House was quite controversial within the Club, the successful support of the organization cemented the Club’s focus on service, which remains a hallmark today. 

 

Although the Club had initially met at the Ajax Restaurant, after six months the new Club outgrew that space, and moved to what is now known as the Tri-Area Community Center, which was to remain the Club’s meeting location for the next 37 years. 

 

We might note that the Club’s support of Hadlock Days in 1983 resulted in local tavern owner and Navy veteran Chuck Russell becoming a member of the Club  

 

Club members also stepped forward to become Paul Harris Fellows, an honor conferred to those who donated money to support the Rotary International Annual Fund, the source of most of the funding used by Rotarians around the world to complete their service projects.

 

Student support was initiated in the following Rotary Year under John Barrett’s leadership with the Student of the Month program and support of the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA), as the Club began to regularly sponsor both programs. Club members also began to explore participation in the Rotary Youth Exchange program. 

 

The Club continued its support of Halcyon House, and expanded its community support to the Jefferson County library and the Food Bank. These were tentative steps, as both Club members and the supported organizations strove to develop the relationships. 

 

By the mid-1980’s the Club had surmounted its initial challenges and set the foundation for its long-term focus on youth programs, local community support and involvement, and was well on its way to becoming a pillar of the communities in eastern Jefferson County. 

 

In fact, looking back at the Club’s records for late-1987, we find the Club’s membership rolls on the rise with sufficient funds to support a variety of local projects, many funded by the Club’s very successful annual fundraiser conducted earlier that year, “Puttin’ On the Ritz”. For example, Club members were engaged in supporting high school scholarships, developing a local branch of the Young Life program for teens, considering support for the local Little League football teams, supporting Toys for Tots, serving on the Jefferson County Citizen of the Year committee, supporting career counseling programs at Chimacum High School, supporting the Rotary Youth Exchange program by hosting a student from Japan (Chuck and Karen Russell were host parents), planning a series of crime prevention presentations, considering supporting the Quilcene High School Girl’s Basketball Team, and a variety of other local projects and activities. Quite a list showing how Club members were engaged in their communities!    

 

The strong focus on both community service and youth programs has remained a hallmark of the Rotary Club of East Jefferson County, and we are both proud and grateful to the Club’s founders and early members for that focus, which has proven so beneficial to so many people. We honor and appreciate those early Presidents which set the pace for us - Jim Humphrey, John Barrett, Bob Schlade, and Roger Keyes, and recognize the substantial contributions of Chuck Russell for his enduring support.   

 

Today, the Club meets at the Old Alcohol Plant at the foot of Port Townsend Bay - or did, that is, until mid-March, 2020 when the Club’s meetings moved online to safeguard our 60 members from the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping through the area. We’ll eventually return to in-person meetings as the pandemic recedes and the County returns to more normal operations. 

 

This year, we funded and completed construction of an outdoor pavilion for the use of students enrolled in the Chimacum High School horticulture program, supported a number of local grant requests earlier in the year, supported youth programs and, of course, the long-running student of the month program begun back in the spring of 1983, hosted a student from South Korea and sponsored an outgoing student to Croatia, and began detailed planning to support construction of one hundred composting toilets for families in the African country of Togo, a global project we are working on under the leadership of the Nor’wester Rotary Club in Port Angeles, with the support of all seven Rotary Clubs on the Olympic Peninsula. We are grateful to our communities for their unstinting support of our fundraisers - our first “Cycle Marrowstone” fundraiser which drew nearly 60 bicycle riders from outside the area to the Peninsula in late August, 2019, The Hadlock Block Party Parade, the final “Pot of Gold” , Rotary Rose sales this spring, and our robust US Flag program which displays 300 US flags around our communities five times each year sponsored by local community members.  

 

We welcome visitors and those interested in our club and Rotary more broadly. When public gatherings are once again permitted in Washington State, consider joining us for lunch at noon on Thursdays at the Old Alcohol Plant in Port Hadlock at 310 Hadlock Bay Road. You’ll find plenty of parking at the Center. An optional cafeteria-style meal is served from 11:30 am - noon. The meeting starts promptly at noon. Following a brief business meeting and announcements, a speaker, often drawn from the communities around us, addresses the club and takes questions. The meeting wraps up at 1pm sharp. We encourage guests!

 

We maintain our website and a Facebook page oriented towards people interested in finding out more about Rotary International and our club.  

 

Biographies of our members may interest you. Find them here, here, here, here, here and here.   

 

If you're at all interested in making a real and lasting difference in the world, and in working together in service with a congenial and supportive group of men and women, check out Rotary and what we do - we welcome your interest and encourage your membership!