IT IS JUST ANOTHER typical Wednesday morning in Lake Forest, and the sun has barely risen over the shores of Lake Michigan when cars begin filling the lot at the Lake Forest Club for the weekly breakfast gathering of action-oriented neighbors, friends, community leaders, and business professionals. But when the breakfast is over, the amicable chatter stops with the ring of a bell and the real business of “Service Above Self ” begins for members of the Lake Forest–Lake Bluff Rotary Club.
Established in 1959, the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Rotary Club is one of more than 35,000 clubs affiliated with Rotary International (RI), a global network of 1.2 million members who are actively changing lives locally and internationally with the mission of providing service to others, promoting integrity and advancing world understanding, good will, and peace each through fellowship and action to create lasting change—across the globe, in their communities, and within themselves. RI was founded 116 years ago when lawyer Paul Harris and three friends met in a small office in downtown Chicago. Their intent was to bring together professionals with diverse backgrounds who could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. They named their new club “Rotary” to describe the practice of meeting in rotation at the members various places of business. The concept drew great attention and spread rapidly. Within six years, Rotary Clubs existed on six continents and its reach vision gradually extended to humanitarian service.
Rotary International is headquartered in Evanston and supports local clubs in working together to promote world peace, fight disease, provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene, protect mothers and children, support education, and grow local economies. RI and its affiliates have been on the forefront of leading efforts such as the eradication of Polio world-wide, responding to global disasters and attacking Malaria in third-world countries.
What does that mean for the 50 plus members of the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Rotary Club? Newly elected Club President John Barth, who has lived and operated his business in Lake Forest for over 20 years, explains, “Our Club provides members the opportunity to network all over the world and to do good within our own community as well as with in neighboring communities.” Barth notes that through the years, the LFLB Club has supported organizations including Northern Illinois Food, Gorton Community Bank, CROYA, LEAD, Nuestro Center in Highwood, Gorton Community Center, Lake County Habitat for Humanity, Boys & Girls Club of Lake County, and countless others. The Club is currently running its annual coat drive which has provided thousands of warm winter coats for youth in Waukegan and North Chicago through the years. Club members are also engaged in offering local literacy and reading programs and opportunities.
Additionally, the local club has been a force on the international scene as well. “Club members have traveled as volunteers to the Maranatha School in Uganda and delivered polio vaccines in India. And the club sent earthquake relief to Haiti, supported Japan Disaster relief efforts, and assisted in providing wells for safe drinking water in Kenya and Tanzania,” said Barth.
Fred Jackson of Lake Forest has been a member of the Club for over 50 years. The long-serving retired Executive Director of Lake Forest Parks and Recreation, said, “I originally joined the Club to better connect myself with leaders in the community. What I discovered is what distinguishes Rotary from other service clubs is the international piece. I have experienced many opportunities to make our world a better place while enjoying the fellowship of my fellow residents. I am a better person today because of Rotary.”
Since its founding, the Club and its public charitable arm, the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Rotary Club Foundation, have donated more than $1 million to causes in our community. The funds are secured by members and through fundraising projects, including the very popular annual Economic Breakfast which brings experts in the industry together to provide economic insights on the year ahead.
When the pandemic hit, Club members continued to meet weekly via Zoom where they participated in regular fellowship and business activities involving local, national, and international speakers. According to Barth, “Our foundation supported several local organizations delivering food and services in the area. We delivered books and introduced a new literacy initiative to help young children prepare for school, whether in person or remote.” A missing component was RI’s highly regarded high school exchange student program, which the Club hopes to resurrect when the pandemic is over.
In the past, Rotary Club members who travel are welcome to attend local weekly meetings throughout the world where they are met by their host and other local Rotarian members. Typically, small local Club flag or banner are presented for the guest to take bake to their home Club. “This a great benefit to being a Rotarian,” said Barth. “You are welcome wherever your travels take you.”
Zhuming Smith, owner of Apex Signs & Graphics, Inc. in Lake Bluff, joined the Club in 2017 and has been nominated to serve as Club president beginning in 2023. Her favorite activity is the annual Memorial Day placement of flags on veteran graves because her late husband served in Vietnam and her late father-in-law fought in Iwo Jima during WWII. “Being a Rotarian means to be of service to others. There are so many challenges in the world, if we can all do something good, the world is a better place,” she said.
A retired chemical engineer who lives in Lake Bluff, Sunny Lu recently founded his own business distributing high-tech consumables for research and industrial labs. He joined the Club one year ago. He especially enjoys the “Happy Dollars” portion of the meeting when Club members have the chance to throw a few dollars into a basket in exchange for the chance to share a happy story about their lives. There are many happy stories every week,” said Lu. “I look forward to the breakfast every Wednesday where I meet with a group of very generous, joyful and loving, people.”
The Lake Forest-lake Bluff Rotary Club meets weekly on Wednesday mornings at 7:15 am at the Lake Forest Club.
Discover how Rotary can be a part of your life by joining us for a breakfast. Send an email indicating your interest to [email protected] Additional information about the Club and membership is available on the website, LFLBRotary.org.