District 5370

 

Chartered on 1 July 1998, District 5370  was formerly part of District 536 (and later 5360), which at that time was one of the largest districts in Rotary. This original district was known as District 18, when first constituted in 1916. The first district conference was held in Edmonton on 10-12 February 1918.

Discussions on dividing District 5360, involving all the clubs, began in 1991, but it was not until 1998 at a district conference in Lethbridge that the final decision to divide the District into northern and southern halves was made. The demarcation line chosen is 52 degrees, 45 minutes north latitude, which is approximately 60 miles south of Edmonton and 120 miles north of Calgary.

District 5370, which covers an area of 520,000 square miles, began with 39 clubs and 1,900 members. As of 1 July 2003, the District has grown in five years to 51 clubs and approximately 2,500 members, representing a growth or 32 per cent in clubs and 38 per cent in members. The District has clubs in Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, and Saskatchewan.

Rotary has been an active force in this area since the Edmonton Club was formed on 13 March  1916,  sponsored jointly by the Rotary Clubs of Winnipeg (1910) and Calgary (1914). In the early years  extension of new clubs proceeded slowly. For example, the next club after Edmonton was not chartered at Camrose until 1924. In the first 50 years of Rotary only 11 clubs were formed in the area that is now District 5370.

Rotary grew slowly, but effectively, providing many community services. Prior to the introduction of the Hospital Services Act in 1957, many Rotary clubs participated in building medical facilities in their towns and cities. In 1917, the Rotary Club of Edmonton introduced a day care centre and, in 1918 started a youth emergency shelter. In the early years the Club purchased Christmas hampers and delivered them to needy families. They also supported  the Edmonton Eskimos football team, Hockey Edmonton, and the Commercial Grads, a championship women�s basketball team, coached by Rotarian Percy Page. On May 11, 1922, CJCA radio station broadcast live a meeting of the Rotary Club of Edmonton. Later the Club assisted, financially, both the vocalist Robert Goulet and the opera singer Ermanno Mauro. Most recently this Club has completed Rotary Millennium House, a residence for low income seniors. Moreover, the District has supported seniors by forming four very active Probus clubs since 1990.

During the 1960s, Rotary clubs were organized in many small centres; they have made significant contributions to their communities. At least 30 clubs have built �Rotary Parks.� In 1934, clubs in what is now District 5370  participated in the formation of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, discussed above in Ninety-five Years of Service. Several clubs have sponsored music festivals and cadet corps. The Rotary Club of Camrose has sponsored an Air Cadet Squadron since 1957. Rotary is the third largest sponsor of cadet programs in Alberta.

Rotary clubs in Edmonton participated in the construction of Fort Edmonton park. The park was started by the Edmonton South Rotary Club in 1971 as a club project, but all the Edmonton Rotary clubs contributed to a start-up fund of $200,000.  Eventually the clubs contributed $1.5 million to the park which officially opened in 1974.

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Retiring local farmer Ottie Toane heard about the Fort Edmonton project and offered the Edmonton South Club antique farm equipment for the park. The Club accepted his offer, and asked him to show them how to use the equipment.  He refused, but said he would operate the equipment for them. Plans were made to start a harvest festival on the Labour Day weekend. Ollie demonstrated old-time harvesting methods from the days of scythe and flail, through horse-drawn binders, balers, and grinders to early-day steam-tractor powered threshers.

Over 44,000 people observed the first performance, which became an annual affair.

Jack Edworthy, chair of the start-up group, asked Ottie Toane why he was not a Rotarian. Ollie replied �Nobody asked me!� Needless to say Ollie had a speedy proposal, approval, and induction to a Rotary Club. He remained a dedicated Rotarian and participant in the harvest festival for the rest of his life.

The Rotary Club of Edmonton sponsored the Rotary Club of Fort McMurray in 1977. Two years later, the young club obtained a lease of about 500 acres near the airport, which it developed into an RV park with 40 serviced and powered stalls. The park now produces an annual profit of $100,000. The Club has been very active in student exchange,  as well as RYLA and RYPEN. The Club is a good supporter of the PolioPlus and a World Community Service medical project in Ecquador.

This very active club raised $2.5 million for constructed of Rotary House, an assisted living complex with 40 units, now celebrating six years of service. The Club�s Rotary Centennial Project is the construction of a large gazebo-shelter on a major walking trail. The Club hosted the 2001 District Conference.

The Fort McMurray club sponsored the Fort McMurray Oilsands club in 1982. This small club, now with only nine members, has supported a music festival; raised funds to purchase two tour buses for seniors; sent students to RYLA and RYPEN; and donated generously to the PolioPlus program.

District 5370 offers RYLA and RYPEN programs (described  elsewhere I this history).started a unique youth program called Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment (RYPEN). Both have had a profound effect on the development of  youth. One wrote the following about RYPEN: �You will never know how you changed my life. I was failing at school, but this year I graduated with Honours�. The District now operates two RYPEN camps every year. Youth  programs is a major focus of District 5370. In addition to RYLA and RYPEN, the clubs participate in international youth exchange, Snacks for Inner City Schools, and scholarships. The Rotary Club of Edmonton West provides three annual scholarships at the University of Alberta, each valued at $7,500.  Rotary International has judged the districts youth program one of the best in North America.

The District has received other honours too. In its first and second years of operation (1898-2000) every club in the district received a presidential citation. In the third year, 89 per cent of the clubs received the honour. Many individual Rotarians have been honoured. Three District Rotarians � Maryann Bibby, Zen Mosisey, and Eunice Mains – have received the Service Above Self Award.