About Our Club
Rotary Club of Lake Charles
The genesis of the Rotary club now known as The Rotary Club of Lake Charles is unique in the history of Rotary International in that it is the successor in name to a Rotary club that was formed as the result of the disbanding of the memberships of two active, but small Rotary clubs in Lake Charles, LA. The unique part of this story centers around the point that Rotary International was first petitioned by The Rotary Club of South Lake Charles and The East Lake Charles Rotary Club to simply merge into one club with the new name. However Rotary International in its wisdom notified the respective Boards of Directors that there was no protocol within Rotary for such an action. Rotary International further stated that the only way these two groups could accomplish their stated objective was for both clubs to surrender their charters and petition for the formation of a new club composed of the members of the other two clubs.
With the interest and impetus of the new grouping of members from a much larger geographical area, the club began to grow and became very active in the then Rotary District 620 (now 6200). Two members still active in the club today served as President of the Rotary Club of Southeast Lake Charles: Richmond (Rich) Corley and Raymond (Ray) Aucoin. The club was active in the early years as a sponsor of a statewide High School Championship Tennis Tournament, which had an influence on the formation of the Lake Charles Racquet Club. The club also formed the first Interact Clubs in District 620 (now 6200) at LaGrange High School, Marion High School, and Lake Charles High School, which were actually the first Interact Clubs in the State of Louisiana. The club also assisted in the formation of the Interact Clubs in New Iberia and Shreveport, LA.
It was one of the first clubs in Rotary International to participate in the Group Study Exchange program, when District 620 (now 6200) sent the first group of five young businessmen and one Rotarian team leader to District 992 (now 9920) in New Zealand. The club has continued to remain active in the Group Study Exchange program over the years by sharing the host club responsibilities with other area clubs from District 6200.
The members of the Rotary Club of Southeast Lake Charles decided in 1974 that the club name was too restrictive and did not truly fit the geographic area represented by the membership of the club. It was decided on March 27, 1974, to change the name of the club to The Rotary Club of Greater Lake Charles. Since the name change in 1974 fourteen members who have served as president are still members of the club in 2015. They are Doug Cooley, Emelie Breaux, J. Richard Churchman, Joyce Clarke, Mel Gehrig, Vicki Wicks, Joe Toups, John Fontenot, Lloyd Lauw, Carmen Million, Patricia Philmon, Anne Miller, Marymarc Armstrong and Frank Webb. Emelie Breaux has the distinction of being the first woman to serve as President of the club.
Three of our Club Presidents have gone on to serve as District Governors for District 620 (now 6200): Raymond Aucoin (1976-77), Gilbert Williams (now deceased) (1983-84), and Richard Churchman (2006-07). As District Governor, Ray Aucoin started the idea of each club in the District having a food booth as the Friday night social gathering to service something unique from their part of the District. This tradition has stood the test of time and is known as the Food Fest, a much anticipated and well-attended part of the District Conference.
The Rotary Club of Lake Charles is proud to have many members with multi-years of perfect attendance. One outstanding record belongs to Dr. Richmond Corley, who in 2014 received his award for fifty six years perfect attendance.
Over the years of its existence, The Rotary Club of Lake Charles has sponsored many worthwhile projects, but none has had a more profound impact on the community than the Annual Auction held initially to fund scholarships through funds donated to the McNeese State University Foundation. The endowed scholarship fund was established in 1992 with an initial check from the auction proceeds in the amount of ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00 US). In each year since 1992 significant dollars have been added to the fund from auction proceeds so that this club’s fund is the largest single endowed fund from a non-profit organization (just nearing $500,000 US) in the McNeese Foundation, funding a growing number of scholarships annually.
In 1999 the club, in keeping with its goals to broaden its support of education, donated a portion of the Auction proceeds to the Sowela Technical Institute Foundation, a post secondary education school that later became Sowela Community College. The initial donation of $12,500.00 US was made to re- establish an endowed scholarship fund at this school, and the club is committed to making this endowed scholarship fund the most significant one at Sowela Technical College.
The Club has been a generous contributor to the Polio Plus campaign since its beginning. As a result it has one of the largest numbers of Paul Harris Fellows per capita of any club its size in Rotary International. The Rotary Club of Lake Charles has received The Rotary Foundation 100% Paul Harris Fellow Club Banner initially in 2006-07 Rotary year and several other times following.
In another ongoing project of recent years the Club has carried on an annual project to assist the Southwest Louisiana Shelter for Battered Women and Children. These activities include purchasing needed supplies, building picnic/barbecue shelters on the grounds, reorganizing and providing shelving for their pantry area, remodeling shelter houses, and providing and installing playground equipment.
In the International Service Avenue the club is proud to have its own international ambassador in the person of a dentist, Dr. James R. Churchman. Richard or Big Rich, as he is known to his fellow members, has served on numerous medical mission trips which include places such as Africa, Mexico, Honduras and Nicaragua. He serves as part of a team delivering free medical and dental care to the indigent population in outlying areas of the selected country. He is very involved in Matching Grants which are now referred to as Global Grants. He is now serving at the Zone Level and has just been named an International Assembly Training Leader for the 2016 Rotary year.
Another international ambassador that we are fortunate to have in our club is Dick Hyatt. Dick is a Korean War Veteran who has gone to China and various locations in Central America to spearhead an “Eyeglass” ministry for the indigent. He and a friend purchased a machine that reads the eye and prints out a prescription for the glasses, enabling the men to fit the patient with glasses. Neither man is an optometrist but have training on the machines. Many patients are able to see clearly for the first time in their lives. The club has underwritten a part of their expenses for several years.
A special club project involved erecting a brick wall at the Civic Center on the lake as a welcome to Lake Charles with the Rotary Wheel prominently displayed, along with the logos of other service organizations in our city. This monument, dedicated February 23, 2005 commemorates Rotary’s 100thyear anniversary.
During the fall of 2005 our members exhibited the principal of service above self, helping victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by donating food, clothing, and personal supplies, serving meals at shelters, repairing homes for elderly neighbors, and hosting members of other Rotary Clubs who came to Lake Charles to help storm victims.
As The Rotary Club of Lake Charles continues to move forward in the 21st Century, its members will continue to fulfill the Rotary principle of SERVICE ABOVE SELF and will work to always be leaders in service to the community of Southwest Louisiana and the World.