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Rotary International, an organization of civic clubs and individuals, was founded by Paul P. Harris, in Chicago, in 1905. Based on the motto, ‘‘Service above Self,’’ it has become not only a focus for local civic activities but also a force for international understanding, with clubs in most of the countries of the world. A well-known effort has been Rotary’s ‘‘Polio Plus’’ campaign. Millions of children have been vaccinated and polio has been eliminated in much of the world. The name Rotary came from the Chicago club’s early practice of rotating meetings among the members’ offices.

The first Rotary club in West Virginia was established in Wheeling on March 10, 1915; followed by Huntington on July 1, 1915; and Charleston on December 1, 1915. Rotary now divides West Virginia into two districts, District 7550 (essentially south of the Kanawha River, including Charleston), having as of 2005, 1,500 members in 32 clubs; and District 7530, in the north, having 1,300 members in 31 clubs. Seven clubs in the Eastern Panhandle are part of another, multi-state district. Rotary clubs meet for a meal, usually lunch but in some cases dinner or breakfast, each week. Regular attendance is required. Local Rotary clubs typically include leading business and professional people. Rotary, once exclusively male, has successfully recruited women members since 1978. The Charleston club elected its first two women members in 1987. Rotary International made it universal in 1989.

Written by Joseph Crosby Jefferds Jr.