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Celebrate 100 Years of the Wilbur Smith Rotary Club on April 4

2017-03-17_1601What do the words “community service” mean to you? It meant everything to Wilbur A. Smith just as it does to all of the Rotarians who work so hard to serve their community to make it a better place for everyone. One hundred years of service to a community is a feat that not many groups can claim, but thankfully Texarkana has been fortunate to have the Wilbur Smith Rotary Club for that long.

The Rotary Club is an international organization. The Wilbur Smith Rotary Club was the first Rotary Club in Texarkana. It originally started as the Texarkana Rotary Club on April 26, 1917. It was renamed in 1998 to honor Wilbur Smith who was a driving force in the goal of community service. He served in the rotary club for approximately 50 years.

Many called him “Mr. Texarkana.”

Say “Happy 100th Birthday to the Wilbur Smith Rotary Club” at the celebration on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at the Four States Fairgrounds Entertainment Center, 3700 East 50th Street, Texarkana, Ark.

2017-03-17_1602Check out this amazing banner that was put together by Rotarian Skylar Rogers with photos of all the Rotary Club members to make a giant image of Wilbur Smith.

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Darby has worked tirelessly with the other Wilbur 100 Committee members to put this event together. They have been preparing for the celebration for a year. Darby has spent many hours researching to gather photos, historical information and other memorabilia for the event.

Social hour begins at 5PM and dinner will be served at 6PM. Enjoy live entertainment by Chasing Rita with dancing after dinner. Tickets are $25 each, which includes dinner and two drinks. Attire is business casual.

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Texarkana Gazette Archives L to R Bill Atkins, Cecil Phillips, Wilbur Smith, Dan Crowder
Texarkana Gazette Archives L to R Bill Atkins, Cecil Phillips, Wilbur Smith, Dan Crowder

Darby said that Wilbur Smith was quite the historian.

“He knew a lot of facts about Texarkana. He had a big archive and donated to the Texarkana Museums System. He was always about putting back into the community.”

2017-03-17_1502Here are the club highlights from the inception of the first Rotary Club in Texarkana to the current accomplishments:

CLUB HIGHLIGHTS FOR THE WILBUR SMITH ROTARY CLUB

  • 1917 Chartered/sold war bonds—president Kuhl was chairman of the Liberty Bond campaign for Miller County and member F.W. Offenhauser raised funds for the Arkansas Library War Council
  • 1922 With the YMCA, gifted Camp Preston Hunt to the Boy Scouts that was being formed underwrote the salary of the first Boy Scout executive
  • 1923 Student loan fund established
  • 1927/28 Member Henry Stillwell became District Governor
  • 1936 Helped implement and underwrote costs for the Boy Scout circus with 1,500 in attendance
    Member L. Claire Cargile was District Governor
  • 1937/38 Member Dr. Collom and the club inaugurated the first clinic for crippled children
  • 1941/42 Sold war bonds and it was the club’s 25th birthday
  • 1951/52 Member Wilbur Smith was District Governor
  • 1952 Dedication of Temple Memorial
  • 1953/54 Member Roy Hodge converted Temple residence to Temple Memorial home
  • 1956 Acquired Rotary Point with the Corps of Engineers with the help of member Norman Russell
  • 1957 Dedicated crippled children pavilion at Lake Wright Patman-built by the Rotary club members
  • 1962/63 Advanced student loan funds to Texarkana College
  • 1965/66 Member John Stroud sponsored a little league baseball team called the “Rotary Wheels”
  • 1967 Established the Oaklawn Rotary club of Texarkana
  • 1967/68 Member Jim Cady organized first Interact Club at Arkansas High
  • 1969 Member Leon Pesek started the first Christmas party at Texarkana Special Education Center—which is now known as Opportunities Inc.
  • 1970/71 Member Jim Cady was District Governor
    and given the worst chili maker award contest with the Oaklawn Rotary
  • 1971/72 Established $5,500 gift to Texarkana College for the Porter Akin Student loan
  • 1975 Rotary Triangle Park dedicated—built by Rotarians at the corner of West 11th and Hazel at State Line—is the route of Trammell Trace
  • 1981/82 Co-started with Oaklawn Club the Public Safety Officers’ Banquet
  • 1984/85 Member Bill Roberts assisted in establishing the Texarkana Community Foundation—Club made a founding contribution of $5,000 and annually contributed $1,000 for five years to the Arkansas Community Foundation for the support of the Texarkana Community Foundation
  • Club established S.A.D.D. chapters at all four high schools
  • 1993/94 Co-started with Oaklawn Club the Teachers Appreciation Banquet
  • 1998 Started sponsoring area juniors to attend Rotary Youth Leadership Award (R.Y.L.A.) — to date have sponsored more than 200 juniors
  • 2002/03 Started the flag project with the three Texarkana Rotary Clubs — to date 100 flag days contributing more than $1 million back into the community
    Member Fay J. Durrant was District Governor
  • 2004 Built a bathroom at Kidtopia Park in downtown Texarkana
  • 2012 Built Rotary Splash Pad with the City of Texarkana, Texas with the help of the other Rotary clubs with grants, corporate sponsorships and donations, club donated $50,000 from club flag funds, total raised-$350,000 — chaired by members Kelly Mitchell and Andi Darby
  • 2017 Celebrated club’s 100th Birthday

You may wonder what happens in between all of those highlighted events? The Wilbur Smith Rotary Club does a lot of different projects every year.

  • Stuff_the_BusFlag Project—along with the other three Rotary Clubs, they place more than 4,000 flags at residences and businesses in the Texarkana area for six flag holidays a year.
  • 2017-03-17_1503
  • Rotary Youth Leadership Camp—send 10 high school juniors every February
  • Teachers Appreciation Banquet every spring—honor campus and district teachers from the 4 Texarkana School Districts along with the other 3 Rotary Clubs
  • Rotary Splash Pad—continually add elements to the Rotary Splash Pad in Spring Lake Park-to date have raised over $375,000 to build the Splash Pad
  • Stuff the Bus—collect monies to buy school supplies for needy children and stuff backpacks every August
  • Randy Sams Outreach Shelter—1st Monday of every month serve food to the shelter
  • Public Safety Officers Banquet every fall—honor police and fire personnel from 11 different departments along with the 3 other Rotary Clubs
  • Opportunities Inc.—collect usually $3k every year to buy presents for the residents at Opportunities
  • College Scholarships—provide scholarships to Texarkana College, Texas A&M and UACCH every year

“Over $1 million dollars has been raised on our flag program,” said Darby, event coordinator. “Those flags you see on the side of the road on holidays? The Rotary sells those flags to the businesses for $35 each. It doesn’t cost that much for the flags, the poles and the mounts, so all of the funds after cost are put back into the community. We pay local groups like the Boy Scout Clubs $2 a flag to put the flags up and take them down so that money goes back into the community.

“And we also used flag money to help build the Splash Pad in Spring Lake Park so that Pad didn’t cost the taxpayers a dime.”

Projects like the Public Safety Officers’ Banquet have been put on yearly by the Club for 36 years and the Teachers Appreciation Banquet for 24 years. This is a Club that continues to give back to their community again and again.

In a day and time when membership in civic organizations has declined, we should be proud that our community has such devoted individuals who believe so strongly in “service above self” (the principle motto of the International Rotary Club) that they continue to give of themselves to our community.

“It all boils down to service to the community and this event is all about what we’ve done and what we can do in the future,” said Darby.

Join them in celebrating 100 years of giving back to Texarkana during the event on April 4. To purchase tickets or find out more information about the event call Andi Darby at 903-244-4282. Of course, proceeds from this celebration will be put back into the community for their tree planting project to cover both sides of Texarkana’s state line.

If you would like to find out more about the Wilbur Smith Rotary visit them online or on Facebook.

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