In the summer of 1923, Roger Leavitt, C.A. Morris, Jack Newman, Harry Isreal, Frank Weisbard and Fred Adams met at the Black Hawk Hotel for dinner and to discuss the possibility of starting a Rotary Club in the city of Cedar Falls. The next morning they, canvassed Main Street inviting business and professional men to join in starting a Rotary Club.
The Waterloo Rotary Club sponsored the Cedar Falls Club and on the evening of February 4, 1924, the District Governor weathered a blizzard to present the charter to a packed house of about 100 people. There were 20 charter members with Roger Leavitt serving as the first President.
At the first regular meeting after organizing, President Seerly of Iowa State Teachers College said, “the one thing that seems to impress everyone is that people have it in their heads and in their hearts to do something for others, for the community and for society in general.” The first year was spent organizing the building the Club.
To encourage regular attendance during one of the early years, the Club was divided into two groups. A box of oranges was the prize and the winners presented their prize to residents of the Western Home. From 1924 to 1931, there was a period of healthy growth in membership and in Rotary spirit. The early 1930’s influence of the depression and the slow recovery preceding World War II were difficult times. There was even pressure to disband the Club. But, in the late 1930’s, the Club took on new life and membership began to increase.
During World War II, food problems became so acute that the Black Hawk Care was forced to discontinue serving Rotary lunches. Almost a year later, arrangements were made with the Cedar Falls Woman’s Club for luncheon service. The programs during the 1940’s were influenced by the problems of the war, but soon after, Rotary emphasis was placed on serving youth.
During the thrity-year period following World War II, the Cedar Falls Rotary Club grew in membership and in service to the community. Service projected ranged from reconditioning the recreation center, construction of a shelter house on the Clay Street playground to furnishing a room at Sartori Memorial Hospital and paving the bike path entry to George Wyth Park. Under the Presidency of LeRoy Redfern, the Club celebrated the Golden Anniversary, the 50th anniversary of the founding of Rotary by Paul Harris.
In 1987, the Cedar Falls Rotary Club responded generously to Rotary International’s goal to raise $123 million to immunize the children of the world against polio and other dreaded diseases. Forty-two thousand dollars was pledged over a three-year period by Club members and $219 million was pledged to Rotary International, far exceeding the goal. During the same year, the court case in California cleared the way for the admission of women to Rotary in the United States. Eight new women members were inducted in the Cedar Falls Rotary Club in the 1987-88 year.
In 1988, a contribution of $2,500 was made for the construction of the Hearst Center for the Arts. Combined with individual Rotary member gifts, more than $30,000 was contributed to this project, a significant response in honor of James Hearst, a highly respected and 27-year member of our Club. Generous gifts from James and Merle Hearst and the community made the Hearsts’ dream of a center for the arts a reality.
In the spring of 1990, the Cedar Falls Rotary Club proudly chartered the first Rotaract Club in District 597. The Club chartered membership consisted of twenty-seven outstanding University of Northern Iowa students and one young business person. In July 1991, the Club completed the shipment of education books to Orlu, Nigeria. Each year, the Rotaract club continues to sponsor one of more service projects.
In the deacades of the 1980’s and 1990’s, numerous local organizations and projects were supported by contributions for the Cedar Falls Rotary Club. The number of major projects and the size of contriubtions grew significantly. In 1988, a contribution of $2,500 was made for the construction of the Hearst Center for the Arts. Combined with individual Rotary member gifts, more than $30,000 was contributed to this project, a significant response in honor of James Hearst, a highly respected and 27-year member of our Club. Generous gifts from James and Merle Hearst and the community made the Hearsts’ dream of a center for the arts a reality.
In 1991, the Club held a successful spring auction fundraiser, a project chosen as a commitment to community service and Rotary Club fellowship. The success is embodied in a new Club committee and dedication of $10,000 to the new Cedar Falls Recreation Center. Success from the first two years of the auction was a facotr in the pledging of $9,000 to the renovation of the Regent Theatre and $15,000 over a five-year period for the University of Northern Iowa Performing Arts Center. In addition, funding was provided to assist the Cedar Falls Historical Society in the construciton of the Carriage House Museum. Financial assistance was also provided to enhance the bike and recreation trails. To support the youth of the area, the Cedar Falls Rotary made a significant contribution for the development of the Cedar Valley Soccer Complex.
To begin the new millennium, our Club provided $15,000 to establish the Rotary Prarie Park, a ten-acre prarie near Big Woods lake. Clearing and planting with 82 varieties of prarie grass and wildflowers was completed in the spring of 2001. In recognition of this outstanding project, Rotary District 5970 made a one time grant of $8,000. Grand funds will be used to develop a trail through the prairie and establishi signage. The land is owned tby the City of Cedar Falls.
In keeping with the purpose of Rotary, Each year, the Cedar Falls Rotary Club endeavors to serve our community, nation, and the world throughout worthwhile projects.