About Our Club
The Rotary Club of Two Rivers was founded Feb 8, 1923.  It was the first service club in the city.  The club was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Manitowoc and is the 1341st club chartered by Rotary International.
Hotel Hamilton, 1919, photograph from the Lester Public Library

The original Rotary Club of Two Rivers had 31 members and for its first 35 years met in the Hamilton Hotel, now the location of The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy.  The club has also met at the Elks Club, M&M Lunch, and the Lighthouse Inn.

The Rotary Club of Two Rivers has been involved in service projects which have had major positive impact on the area.  Among the early Rotary projects in the community were:
  •  A Boys Work Program which evolved into the Two Rivers Recreation Department
  •  Support for the city manager form of government for the city of Two Rivers
  •  Promotion of the Two Rivers Municipal Hospital
  •  Junior baseball programs
  •  Father/son and father/daughter banquets
  •  Promotion of the Hamilton Swimming Pool at Washington High School, one of the first swimming pools in a high school in Wisconsin
  •  Members were instrumental in working to win state approval for the Point Beach State Forest
  •  Members worked for the founding of the Manitowoc County Health Care Center

The Rotary Club of Two Rivers has provided strong leadership in the past and continues to be a force for positive change now and in the future.

Above: Some early Rotary members appear in this short historical clip from the personal collection of William Glandt. Thank you to the Two Rivers Historical Society and Bridget VanGinkel for putting the video online.
Since 1976, the Rotary Club of Two Rivers has been active in the Rotary International Student Exchange Program.  As a participant in the program, we have sent at least one local student to study and live abroad for year under the cultural exchange program.  We have also had the privilege of hosting one foreign student a year.  Our students have gone to New Zealand, India, Japan , Zimbabwe, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, England, The Netherlands, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil and more... while many foreign students have come to Two Rivers.


A peek at the past

Rotary's goal is to do good in the world. Here's the story of what our club has done in Two Rivers.


StackFest marks the passing of an industrial era in Two Rivers

On May 31, 2015, an iconic town symbol, the tall smokestack of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company came tumbling down, signaling the passing of an industrial era, 1880 to 2014, in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

Nearly a century earlier, in 1923, in Two Rivers’ bustling manufacturing era, a group of businessmen founded a branch of a new men’s service club that had begun in Chicago in 1905. It was called Rotary. Racine-native Paul Harris, a Chicago lawyer and Rotary’s founder, had thought it important to bring together professional men from diverse occupations in the cause of “Service above Self.”

In America the early 20th Century was a heady and exciting time for progressive reform. Widespread political and social activism challenged corruption in politics and monopolies in business. Teddy Roosevelt and Wisconsin’s “Fighting Bob” La Follette denounced greed and profiteering. Women demanded the vote, temperance targeted saloons, and workers sought the protection of unions.
Paul Harris’s service club creation, Rotary, was a product of its era.  All over America, businessmen’s clubs popped up like mushrooms in the night. By 1910, Rotary clubs existed in 16 American cities.
Our Two Rivers Rotary Club, chartered in 1923, was the city’s first service club and—reflecting the rapidity of change—was the 1,341st Rotary Club established in the United States. From its origins, the institution of Rotary went international. Today, across the world, there are over 46,000 Rotary clubs and 1.4 million Rotarians in more than 200 countries. Rotary International, headquartered in Evanston, Illinois, now operates in 8 official languages.
Just over a century ago in 1919, Manitowoc established a Rotary Club. Four years later, the Manitowoc Club sponsored the creation in Two Rivers of a Rotary Club. In its first year the Two Rivers club enrolled 31 members. George S. Hamilton was President and Fred Schroeder, Treasurer. The club grew in membership.
The first two-thirds of the last century was the industrial golden age in the Upper Midwest, factories numerous, businessmen plentiful. The Two Rivers club thrived, even to the point of supplying two Rotary District Governors, Howell Evans in the 1930s and Earl Kromer in the 1960s. 
As recently as the mid-1990s Two Rivers Rotary’s membership has numbered over 50, representing more than three dozen professions from accounting and automobiles to wood and woolens.
Date Unknown~ Photo taken inside the J.E. Hamilton Community House ~ Rotary Club hosts an event for farmers and civic clubs of Two Rivers. At right, C.C. Case; at microphone, George O'Brien, superintendent of schools ~ What was C.C. Cases name? one C stood for Clarence. Courtesy of Lester Public Library. Thank you to the Two Rivers Historical Society for use of this photograph.
Although job erosion in the Upper Midwest began in the 1970s when many factory jobs, both workers and management, headed South and then overseas, the Two Rivers Club membership levels remained robust. 
Women were admitted to Rotary International membership in 1989. Two Rivers Rotary women are active, energetic members. Five of our Rotary presidents since 1996 have been women: Lauretta, the first woman president, followed by Ann Duebner, Betty Bittner, Jane Gates, and currently Colleen Inman.


Service and fun

You know, Rotary is all about Service above Self.” But Rotarians have fun too. We’ve enjoyed Dave Hartman’s annual “Steak Fry” in late summer, and a Christmas Social every December. Our major fund-raising event is our March Dinner and Auction at a suitably tony restaurant.

Twenty years ago, we shared with Manitowoc Sunrise and Noon Rotary Clubs an S.S. Badger Car Ferry summer outing to Ludington, Michigan. 

Other past social events include A Two Rivers Snowcoaster Pizza Night, a Wine & Cheese Tasting party, and a Classic Arts Dinner Theatre Outing to Appleton.


Service in our community

Here are some past projects Two Rivers Rotary has supported or run:

— Participating with Manitowoc’s two Rotary clubs, Sunrise and Noon, in annual Lobsterfest” event, an inter-city fund-raising event.

— Each April, hosting an annual dinner program at the Lighthouse Inn for the Two Rivers Senior Center. As club President Wes Drumm told the 40th annual senior dinner crowd in 1994, “It’s good for the community; most importantly, this recognition and thank-you dinner “honors those persons who formed this solid foundation that we enjoy, you, our senior citizens.”

— The Fall season Rose Sale fund-raising, initiated (I believe, by Dr Bob Gahl) in 1994, now in its 21st year and still going strong

— Christmas-time bell-ringing for the Salvation Army

— Participating in the nationwide  Meals-on-Wheels program

— Engaging in work projects and fund raising for Habitat for Humanity, the Cerebral Palsy center,  Peter’s Pantry in Manitowoc, and the Two Rivers Ecumenical Food Pantry

— Our program advocating for and pledging $25,000 to build the Rotary Lakeshore Pavilion on Neshotah Park’s half-mile sandy beach
— Super Bowl Party, fund-raising at “Snowfest,” and providing scholarship funds to students going to college


Community and regional work

Historically, our Club’s community and regional work has been wide-ranging, in projects large and small.
Back in 1925, the club supported Two Rivers’ transition from a mayoral to a city manager form of government. Also in the 1920s, the club backed the building of a hospital for the City. In the 1960s, as new needs arose, the club supported building a second hospital next to it.  Both today can be seen on Picnic Hill.
On a more modest level, Club outreach has also taken the form of installing a bus shelter on Forest Avenue in front of senior housing at Village Green West.
Youth and education have been a major Rotary focus.  More than a half-century ago a Boys’ Work Program became the embryo for the Two Rivers Recreation Department.  Decades ago, this Club was active in installing the Hamilton Swimming Pool in the old Washington High School, one of the first public school swimming pools in the state. 
Our club has sponsored youths to attend in-state conferences like Badger Boys State and the World Affairs Seminar, Student Exchange Programs (in-bound and out-bound), Summer Youth Exchange programs.   At Two Rivers High School, we long had a Rotary “Interact” program with students, and we still maintain a Junior Rotarian program with the school.  One of  our club members, Dennis Swetlik, has for many years served as Coordinator of student youth exchange programs in Rotary District 6270.  
In the area of recreation, Rotary has been active over the years in making various improvements in Neshotah Park—building rest rooms and the Beach House. Two Rivers has long been a city of parks.
Early in the 20th-century, Central Park shows that an elevated gazebo west of Washington Street built around the same time as the 1900 statue honoring the Civil War Union soldier was still in the street. Many decades later, Rotary service in 1976 worked with other service clubs to build the current bandstand pavilion in Central Park.
In the 1930s, our Rotary club pitched in with other organizations  to help win state approval for the creation of Point Beach State Forest. In the 1990s, we made a three-year funding commitment to the Rogers Street Fishing Village to assist them with preserving the history of this long-important industry to Two Rivers. Our club also, working with many others, supported the 2002 creation our beautiful, six-mile-long Mariner’s Trail along Lake Michigan’s shoreline.

Two Rivers Rotary's international reach

Two Rivers Rotarys reach is international as well.  It is  remarkable, for a club our size, what we have accomplished over the past quarter-century. 
Our club contributed by 1995 some $80,000 to the Rotary Foundation. The Rotary Foundation is an endowment created back in 1917 “for the purpose of doing good in the world.”  The Foundation’s endowment fund received its first contribution in 1918.  By 1928, the endowment had swelled to some $5,000. In 1930 the Rotary Foundation made its first grant: $500 to the International Society for Crippled Children, whose name was later changed to “Easter Seals.”  The Rotary Foundation’s endowment value  today?  More than $1 billion US dollars.
Two Rivers Rotary has participated in a number of international projects:
In 1985, Rotary International mounted an international program, PolioPlus, to rid the world of the wild poliovirus.  Already by 1995, our Two Rivers Rotary had contributed $25,000—  200% above its projected goal. The program has been hugely successful. The last polio victim in the Western Hemisphere came in 1995—only ten years after the start of “Polio Plus.” 
Today this ancient worldwide scourge has been virtually eliminated. Through Rotary clubs’ worldwide contributions of $1.3 billion and elbowing donor governments to spend $9 billion, some 2.5 billion children in 122 countries have gained immunity to the polio virus.
Our Two Rivers club has pitched in to provide practical cooking facilities, Sun Ovens, to people in one of the most impoverished nations in the world.  Over just two presidential years, 1992-1994, our club contributed $12,000 to purchase solar-powered ovens, “Sun Ovens,” to
people in need in Haiti. Two Rivers Rotary was a leader among District 6270 Eastern Wisconsin clubs in its level of funding for this worthwhile project.
Our club was one of many that participated in a four-year, $300,000 project sponsored by our Rotary District 6270 in funding a Rotary project to train Haitian residents in installing 17 miles of water pipeline from a mountain stream to local villages so the people could, for the first time, drink clean water. The project was completed in 1993.
Led by Dr. Bob Gahl, our club has also participated in the 1990s in the Jaipur Foot Project.  Rotary International has provided artificial limbs, legs, and feet for amputees around the world, victims of land mines and other accidents, wartime or peacetime.
Led by Two Rivers’ pharmacist Brian Jensen’s passion and stimulus, our club has participated with others in a Guatemala Medical Resources Partnership (GMRP). Brian has been regularly active in this Rotary project’s funding and in traveling every January with other health care professionals to provide medical care to people in Guatemala.  GMRP saw 500 patients, many walking hours to get to the four-day clinic.