The ROTARY CLUB OF CLEVELAND is a civic-service club formed by 25 charter members on 1 Dec. 1910. By 1935 the club had 400 members and was second in size only to the 550-member original club in Chicago (est. 1905). Established for "the promotion of the business interests of its members" and for "the advancement of the best interests of Cleveland," the Rotary Club accepted as a member any owner or manager of a business not already represented among the local chapter's membership.
The overt promotion of members' businesses soon gave way to the larger goal of community service. Cleveland Rotarians pioneered and originated Rotarian work on behalf of crippled children, helping to form the national and Ohio branches of the SOCIETY FOR CRIPPLED CHILDREN, promoting legislation to provide services to the disabled, and providing funds and material assistance in founding clinics and such facilities as Camp Cheerful.
While continuing its work on behalf of the disabled, the club's activities in recent decades also reflected the changing concerns of the times. In 1957 it established its "good neighbor" awards to recognize efforts to improve Cleveland-area neighborhoods, and in 1967 it contributed funds for a program to buy poisons, equipment, and trash cans to exterminate rats in HOUGH. Its Medal of Valor awards to honor policemen and firemen for heroism in the line of duty began in 1966. The club has repeatedly worked on behalf of troubled youngsters, and during both the 1920s and 1980s, Rotary regularly honored the area's top high school students. By 1995 the Northeast Ohio District contained 59 Rotary clubs, and the Rotary Club of Cleveland had more than 300 members.