“Service Above Self” is Their Motto.
Every Tuesday morning at 7:00 for the last 16 years the Steveston Hotel has generously opened their doors as an informal meeting space for the Steveston Rotary Club. This is where approximately 30 dedicated volunteers gather to work together for the betterment of our community. Through a variety of fundraising initiatives, these Rotarians lend their support to make a positive difference around the world and in our own back yard.
Rotary clubs are comprised of local residents and business professionals who meet regularly, get to know each other and work hard to get things accomplished. Each club is unique, based on its membership and the community in which it is situated. Rotary International (out of Chicago) provides the governance framework that all clubs must follow.
This nonpartisan service organization is open to all people. There are 35,000 member clubs worldwide with 1.2 million members. Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self.”
Robert Madsen is one of Steveston Rotary Club’s founding charter members and has been involved since its inception in 2001. He serves as the club’s marketing chairperson and has held many other roles including president and secretary in his 16-year relationship with the club.
Almost all of Steveston’s Rotary members live in the area and are community minded people. A lot is accomplished during the productive one-hour weekly meetings; members hear presentations from groups looking for financial assistance and they plan ongoing and upcoming projects.
“Members love their involvement with Steveston Rotary. It is a very positive organization where we accomplish amazing things.” Robert Madsen
Steveston’s Rotary throws their support behind a variety of local projects. Robert mentions one of the earliest ventures was a fishing boat festival to give children the opportunity to board working vessels. As well, they cofounded the original Maritime Festival with Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site and ran it for five years until the City of Richmond took over the management of this extremely popular festival.
Some projects are “one offs” while others are annual events. Steveston Rotary takes pride in helping local people in need, like the time they assisted a Steveston resident struggling to make ends meet, so they purchased and repaired a used vehicle for her.
Their biggest single fundraiser of all time was the Walk For Japan to assist in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Robert says, “That was the most successful single event where we raised $150,000.” Based on this success, they staged a second walk in 2012 to aid children of Onagawa who had been orphaned after the natural disaster.
Robert estimates the Steveston Rotary Club has raised well over a million dollars for various projects since 2001.
Currently the Steveston Rotary Club is involved in lending financial support to The Write to Read Project to increase literary in First Nations communities and The Dental Mission Project, a non-profit society that supports regions in desperate need of oral health care and education both at home and abroad.
Locally, the club is hard at work staging events like the Steveston Rotary Rubber Duck Race. This popular event is now in its fifth year. The duck race is timed during the Maritime Festival in August. The public purchase tickets and their assigned ducks bob along the Steveston Harbour course with a maximum of 4,000 opponents in a race to cross the finish line. The stakes are high to see who will win the grand prize one-week vacation to Maui amongst other prizes.
Steveston Rotary is a dedicated supporter of Richmond Community Hospice Foundation. Their fundraising efforts helped to landscape the Salvation Army’s Rotary Hospice House’s garden. In addition, in 2015 Robert Madsen was invited to participate in Richmond Hospice Association’s fundraising event, Dancing With the Richmond Stars, and this year Steveston Rotary members Dr. Sean Graham and Pat Kasprow took to the ballroom floor.
Giving back to Steveston’s senior population is very important to Steveston Rotary. In the summer they hold a free barbecue at Steveston Community Centre with burgers and entertainment, and at Christmas they host a holiday luncheon with all the trimmings and round out the celebration with carols and a visit from Santa. Seniors embrace these opportunities; the turnout can be as high as 180 people.
Another successful event is the upcoming annual Grapes, Hops and Bites Festival on Friday, May 26. Now in its sixteenth year, this is a celebration of local wineries, breweries and food. Multi-regional tasting stations are set up to provide comparisons between a long list of amazing wines and beers.
The Grapes, Hops and Bites Festival is held at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery. As you socialize amongst many familiar people from our community and enjoy your sips and bites, you will feel good knowing 100 per cent of the proceeds go directly back into the community and programs managed by Steveston Rotary Club. This ticketed event is open to the public and tickets are now on sale.
Robert concludes, “We want to break the stereotype that Rotary is for elitist old guys. Anyone can come to a meeting to see what it’s about.”
The selfless efforts of the many kind-hearted Rotarians who volunteer their time is reminder of our good fortune to live in a community where so many people are working tirelessly to make a difference. These dedicated Rotarians are to be applauded for their invaluable contributions to Steveston.