The Rotary Club of Lakewood, Washington, was officially chartered on June 19th, 1956, with Robert Bernnard as the first President. Charter members included 20 of Lakewood’s business and professional leaders, all attracted by the core Rotary values of integrity, inclusiveness, fellowship, and service – not only local but international.

During the first few years, the club gave modest scholarships to graduating seniors at Clover Park High School and worked to find the best possible new members. In 1961, the Easter Pancake Breakfast became our first ongoing, major fundraiser. It included all the best elements of Rotary: fellowship, family, and service, while raising substantial amounts of money destined for needed community projects. It became the paradigm that led to many other successful fundraising events, showing us just what we could accomplish when we focused our talent, treasure and time.

“Whatever Rotary may mean to us, to the world it will be known by the results it achieves.”

Paul Harris
Rotary founder

In 1979, we were challenged by far-sighted members to honor the memory of our own Charles “Cap” Peterson, by raising $233,000 for the Cap Peterson Renal Dialysis Center. Among the many events that made this financially successful, was the appearance of noted economist and academician Milton Friedman at a sold out lecture. The process seriously stretched the membership and taught it that, with the right leadership, any goal was within their reach.

Other major Rotary fundraiser is the annual Sportsmen’s Dinner, started in 1971. The money raised from our fundraisers over the years have paid for baseball facilities (Charlie Peterson Fields), the formation of the Lakewood YMCA and the Lakewood Boys and Girls Club; the “Jaws of Life” and emergency vehicle for the Lakewood Fire Department; $100,000 for the Mary Bridge Children’s Sexual Abuse Center; the construction of Springbrook Park; construction of the playground at Ft. Steilacoom Park; funding the start up of the International Baccalaureate program in the Clover Park School District and an annual budget that currently over $20,000 for community concerns, $2,000 for youth achievement and sports, $6,000 for scholarships, $5,000 for international projects, and $3500 for Christmas food baskets.

Besides fundraising and major community projects, Lakewood has become a District leader in contributions to the Rotary Foundation, with much of the credit going to “persuasive” members Russ Klauser and Mike McGowan. In the early seventies, Russ convinced a select group of Rotarians that a $1000 contribution was in their best interest and Mike instituted a “$2 per week program” that made it possible for others to gradually achieve a Paul Harris. The result has been the awarding of nearly 300 Paul Harris Fellowships and a donation of over $1 Million to the Foundation. Plus, it has encouraged other clubs in District 5020 to make the Foundation a priority.

But raising money is just a part of Lakewood Rotary; its heart continues to be fellowship, to include Christmas, Valentines and St. Patrick’s parties; professional sporting events; scenic bus tours; Rotary baseball games; annual Presidential Roast; Floating Board Meeting; and weekend ski retreats.

For over 60 years, Lakewood Rotary has remained a positive force for good in the Lakewood community, upholding Rotary’s prime directive: “Service Above Self.”


You can find out more about the history of the Rotary Club of Lakewood in our club history book. It is available for download below