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These ten highlights about our 100 years are not only special historical moments but are also the commencement of traditions that make our Club distinctive – we are consistent regarding good traditions, innovative regarding traditions that need change, service-orientated with emphasis on youth, loyal to District 7000 and Rotary International, a generous and involved participant of the Rotary Foundation, and ardent believers in education through our weekly variety of speakers and outreach programs not only for youth but also for adults in diverse areas of health and medicine.   
June 1, 1918 – Club Becomes Official Member of Rotary International.    In April of 1918, Mr. J. Frank Lanning of the Pittsburgh Rotary Club convinced Harwood Hull, Sr. to establish a club in San Juan that would be the second in Latin America after Havana and the ninth internationally. The San Juan Rotary Club was officially inaugurated with 49 members at a Tuesday luncheon held on June 1, 1918, at the Palace Hotel in Old San Juan. Harwood Hull was named president, and the Club received its certificate of membership #399 with this June 1, 1918 membership date. Since the Havana Club ceased to exist under Castro, the San Juan Rotary Club stands as the oldest continuous club in Latin America and south of the Tropic of Cancer. Although the Club has changed its venue over the years, we still meet on Tuesdays with the meetings starting and ending punctually at 12:30 and 1:30, respectively. In Puerto Rico we call this “American Time” to distinguish an appointment in our more liberal Latin starting and terminating times. It is fitting that the Pittsburgh Rotary Club was our sponsor, since the citizens of Pittsburgh and Puerto Rico share a common appreciation for the athletic skills and human characteristics of Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash on December 31, 1972 transporting aid to the victims of the Nicaraguan earthquake. In the pamphlet “50 Years of Service, 1918-1968,” the long-time relationship with the Pittsburgh Club is described as follows: “Ties with the sponsoring club, Pittsburgh, were maintained for some time … the silk banner that was retired only a couple of years ago due to the somewhat bedraggled appearance after at least 45 years of service, was a present to San Juan Rotary from Pittsburgh.” The original gift consisted of “two large silk banners, one the American flag and the other the Rotary banner.” 
1919 – Sponsorship of Ponce and Mayaguez Rotary Clubs. The Ponce Club began operations on June 1, 1919, a year after San Juan; however, according to Rotary International, the Ponce Club was chartered on September 9, 1935, and ceased to exist on January 1, 2015 (but there remain three active Ponce clubs – El Vigía, El Señorial and Perla del Sur, chartered on October 2, 1967, August 22, 1974, and October 10, 1980, respectively).  The Mayagüez Club was chartered on December 13, 1926, and these in turn sponsored the Arecibo (March 4, 1935) and Guayama (June 30, 1937) clubs. Three more were started in 1938 – Humacao, Caguas and Yauco. San Juan Rotary also sponsored the Río Piedras (May 24, 1941), Santurce (December 12, 1947), and the presently active Dorado (April 4, 2004] clubs.  San Juan Rotary was also instrumental via its member John Richardson who was then serving as District Governor as well as with the then president of the Isla Verde, Carolina Rotary Club, José (Pepito) Rivero (today a San Juan Rotarian and the incoming President of our Club) in establishing the first online club in 2012 called “E-Club Puerto Rico y Las Americas.” In 2016 we established the Palmas del Mar Satellite Club in Humacao.  Along with 8 satellites, there are presently 41 clubs in Puerto Rico that were directly or indirectly sponsored by San Juan Rotary, a consistent record over these many years of developing the Rotary movement in Puerto Rico through traditional formats and innovative experimentsThe San Juan Club, consistent with its focus on youth, sponsored the Commonwealth School Interact Club and the Inter American University Rotaract Club that have been active to this date. In 2012, Ray Erb saw the tremendous potential of Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA), and traveled with Karla Sanabria, a 15-year old student of Santa Gema in Carolina, to a conference in Phoenix, Arizona, all at his expense. Ray, with the persevering assistance of Karla, proceeded to implement with great success the RYLA program for developing youth leaders in Puerto Rico, and Ray has been the District chair for Youth Programs from 2016-2018.
1922 – Club Sponsors Students. Although we do not have the names of the students, the minutes of the 1922 Rotary Convention reflect the following: “The club in San Juan devotes a good deal of time to boys’ welfare.  At the present time, we are sending one boy from Porto [sic] Rico to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, paying all expenses and giving him his complete education there. In addition to this, every Rotarian in San Juan last year agreed to take care of a boy of a very good family, but of limited means, and see that he went through grammar school and then try to locate him somewhere where he could work his way through High School.” This tradition of sponsoring the education of youth has remained a strong component of the Club’s service that has always emphasized youth. We not only sponsor students with economic help, but we also mentor them via volunteers who visit Llorens Torres Public Housing to assist students in learning English. Club members established two libraries in this housing complex in 1995. Through the mentoring program we met Ana Pizarro, Antonio Morales and Karol Oviedo.  Ana and Antonio were 15 years old in 1995 with very different interests. Ana loved science and medicine and is today a doctor in physical medicine practicing in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Antonio was interested in the arts and is today the producer and director of movies, documentaries and plays. Antonio has worked extensively with the children of Llorens Torres establishing and mentoring theater groups.  A couple of years after meeting Ana and Antonio, we met Karla Oviedo, a student with great potential, who was then in the fifth grade at the public school serving the children residing in Llorens Torres. We arranged for a full scholarship at Robinson School commencing in the sixth grade and extending through her graduation with the third highest academic ranking and the most awards in her class.  Karol is now a straight-A student scheduled to graduate from Emory University in 2019. She has been granted the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship that will help her follow up with a PhD program for her goal of becoming a college professor. One final student sponsorship needs mentioning as we celebrate our 100th Anniversary Gala. On July 2, 2010, we held the Blue and Gold Gala under the presidency of Enrique Sigas honoring Rotary International President Ray Klinginsmith and his wife Judy. At this Gala we gave them a work of art painted by José A. Méndez who we met in 6th grade at the Lincoln School in Old San Juan and who at the time of the Gala was in 9th grade. A trust fund administered by our Club was set up for his education and José sold his art work at that Gala to provide the trust some additional funds. We continued to assist José in 2015 when he needed help to supplement the trust fund in order to continue his art studies.
1927 – YMCA Camp at El Yunque.  In 1927 the land and first structures were built in El Yunque, an initiative of San Juan Rotary charter founder Herbert W. Brown, Sr. with the collaboration of other entities. The facilities were placed under the control of the YMCA of San Juan. By 1928 there were various “cabins,” but as the 50th Anniversary Report describes: “… disaster in the form of Hurricane San Felipe struck and all that had been built was destroyed. Interest was discouraged [sic] and the Elks and Masons withdrew from the project, but in 1934 San Juan Rotary re-built cabins, this time out of re-enforced cement. The “Y” also built an administrative structure for $12,000 and the camp was back in business.”  In 1966 the “water hole” was declared unfit for swimming as it had filled with silt and was infested with bilharzia or blood fluke. The Club provided $17,500, matching a Rockefeller Foundation grant, in order to build “a new, sanitary, and more manageable pool.” The YMCA received donations from the Club throughout the years, along with the Boy and Girl Scout organizations. This assistance to entities serving youth has continued, and in recent years the Boys and Girls Club has been the principal participant in our Thanksgiving luncheon and the YWCA has been included as one of the organizations benefitting from our four-year old Chili and Sancocho Cook-Off fundraiser.
September 1928 – Hurricane San Felipe and September 2017 -- Hurricane Maria. The historical sketch compiled and edited by Sam Pierce, Jr. for the celebration of the Rotary International Golden Anniversary provided this description of how hurricane San Felipe brought out the best of Rotary: “Perhaps the first concrete manifestation of the fraternal spirit and world-wide good will of Rotary was given to the San Juan Club in 1928. It was in September of that year that Hurricane San Felipe struck the island and left a great deal of devastation. As the news got out, letters and donations immediately began to come in from clubs on the continent. Nutley, New Jersey, Providence, Rhode Island, Santa Rosa, California, Clearwater, Florida, Houston, Texas, New York City, all communicated with the San Juan Club offering funds, assistance and sympathy.”  The San Juan Rotary Club helped other islands in the Caribbean when we were spared such as Hurricane Luis in 1995 wherein the Marriott Hotel was turned into a hurricane relief center run by our Club, and we delivered an X-Ray machine to a hospital in St. Kitts.
Last September, some eighty-nine years later, Puerto Rico was again devastated by the monstrous category 5 Hurricane María, and once again the Rotary community has come to help in many ways.  This storm wreaked havoc throughout Puerto Rico and the residents of all municipalities were seriously affected with the loss of electricity and water service.  By Christmas, less than half of all municipalities had electricity and many still had no water.  Cell phone service was intermittent at best, there was no phone land line service, and no internet since most of the communication towers had been destroyed.  During the first few weeks after the storm there was very little fuel available for motor vehicles and electric generators. Just days after the storm our Club started to receive offers of help from Rotary clubs throughout the U. S., Canada, Europe and South America.  The ports were still closed to normal commercial traffic and there was a two-week backup of goods at the port waiting to be delivered.  Even the mail service was unreliable.  Within a few weeks we started to receive aid shipments and our Club went to work.  We established a hurricane relief committee which has worked tirelessly at helping the neediest communities in Puerto Rico.  Special recognition is due to committee chairs Bob Bolte and Gerry Cumpiano, along with Armand Pique, Georganna Hildebrand, Ken McGrath, Ray Erb, and Junita Morris who spent many weekends delivering food, lights, water and filters, mattresses, and personal items to communities throughout Puerto Rico.
In October, Bob Bolte and Ken McGrath met in San Juan with Dennis and Maricelis Gray, from the Ithaca, NY Rotary Club with the goal of meeting the nutritional needs of babies/toddlers and the elderly who were the most helpless of the hurricane victims.  After an enormous effort to coordinate the shipping and distribution of 55 tons of baby food, 3 containers started to arrive in December.  This shipment was valued at over $450,000, and produced through the efforts of three other Rotary clubs in Ithaca, Toronto and Indiana.  The distribution of the 330,000 packets of food was coordinated with several other Rotary clubs in Puerto Rico.  The committee focused on orphanages, elderly homes, church groups and targeted needy communities that were still struggling without electricity or water.  The communities and municipalities which our club visited to distribute the baby food included Hills Brothers in Rio Piedras, Alejandrino, Cupey Sur, Caimito, Ciales, Canovanas, Villalba, Caguas and Adjuntas.  In that effort we were able to determine which areas would need our continued support in the future.  In most of the visits to these communities we also distributed solar and kerosene lamps. Our Club has since returned to a few of these areas with additional support and food.
During that same timeframe we installed a large water cistern and pump which cost about $4,000 in a school for children with special needs, as well as a 700-gallon reserve water tank at the Rexford. G. Tugwell Montessori public school in Cayey.  Our Club also received $30,000 worth of water filters and generators from the Rotary Club of Manhattan Beach in California. These were sent to three communities: Patillas, Comerio and Carite. During February, our Club helped several individual families by providing materials to repair windows and doors, mattresses and appliances damaged by the storm. In April, our Club purchased and distributed over 50 mattresses costing over $14,000, to a community in Loiza which had been flooded by the storm and was not being served by any other relief agency.  In June, another 192 mattresses were subsequently delivered to other communities. At our May 15, 2018 luncheon, San Juan Rotarian Georganna Hildebrand presented our past President and the in-coming District Governor, Juanita Morris, Chair of the YWCA Board, with a $15,087 donation she secured from the Rotary Club of Santa Cruz, California for repairs to the YWCA’s hurricane damaged building in San Juan. 
There are still over 20,000 residents without electricity that are still struggling.  There are many people who have lost their homes, or had them severely damaged, but do not qualify for aid from FEMA.  This presents an opportunity for our Club to continue to help these families for the foreseeable future.  Our Club is currently working on five global grants to support projects in needy communities that will also provide a longer term economic stimulus.
April 3, 1968 – Loaiza Cordero Institute for the Blind Gymnasium.  It has been said that “Probably closer to the hearts of San Juan Rotarians than any other project in which the Club participates are the children of the Loaiza Cordero Institute for the Blind. This Institute was founded at about the same time as the San Juan Club and the plight of these unfortunates has held the club’s attention since early in its history. Each year for many years past a group of these young people has come to the club for a Christmas party at which gifts suitable for the season are distributed along with candy and other traditional refreshments.” Among the numerous projects initiated for the Loaiza Institute, the highlight or “big job” was the construction of a gymnasium inaugurated on April 3, 1968. Architect William Biscombe, a San Juan Rotarian, provided the design and helped raise the remaining funds needed for the construction “worth easily $40,000.”
Concern for medical and health issues and help to others has been a constant over the years with eye tests and glasses, health fairs, and vaccination drives. Medical orientations for Rotarians and the general public were necessitated by the pesky mosquito. These started with Gary Clark towards the end of the 80’s addressing Dengue and continued with Dr. Johnny Rullán more recently with Chikungunya and Sika. Finally, San Juan Rotary has strongly supported Rotary International’s campaign to end polio, an initiative that coincidentally also commenced towards the end of the 80’s. 
1987 – First Four Women Members.  The first four women who together joined the San Juan Rotary in 1987 were Vilma Colón, Mona Gordon, Dr. Ether Ríos Betancourt and Angela Weyne. Vilma Colón was President of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce in that same year. Mona Gordon went on to become President of the Club and later District Governor. These were all precedent-setting steps for Rotary in Puerto Rico, and San Juan Rotary is extremely proud of the outstanding role women have played in our Club and in the District. Our Club has had three additional excellent female presidents – Ivette González de Elías (2006-07), Juanita Morris (2013-14), and Jennifer Bates (2016-17). Juanita Morris is the 2018-19 District Governor. In addition, San Juan Rotarian Pat Schneider has been our Executive Director since 1976 and member of the Club since 1999.    
1991 – Thanksgiving Luncheon. Our annual Thanksgiving luncheon commenced in 1991 under Sol Bravman, who turned over the leadership in 2017 to Edwin Aquino, although Sol remains active in the cause. In addition to members from the aforementioned Loaiza Cordero Institute for the Blind, a constant presence, the Thanksgiving luncheon hosts children from the Instituto Psicopedagógico for mentally handicapped and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Greater San Juan Metropolitan area. San Juan Rotarians obtain the sponsorships to cover the costs, organize the logistics, and volunteer their time and efforts to prepare the tables and serve the meals. In many years, we have hosted over 500 participants.
2000-2003– Jane Stern Dorado Community Library Support. We previously mentioned the two Llorens Torres libraries established in 1995 with $20,000 raised via a raffle. These were later folded into a Youth Learning Center established by the administrator of the Llorens Torres Public Housing Complex. Our next step in this endeavor was our involvement with the Jane Stern Community Library in Dorado, founded in 1974.  Our club was instrumental in ensuring its economic viability and the extension of the concept to five other communities when Jane Stern, a San Juan Rotarian, requested our assistance during the presidency of Charles Elias. The Club raised more than $260,000 via corporate donations, a golf tournament and a gala dinner at the Hyatt Cerromar.  The Jane Stern Dorado Community Library has been a huge success with six satellite libraries functioning today in addition to its main facilities in the town of Dorado. During this period we also helped the San Juan Community Library (originally BUCAPLA) with the same $20,000 donation amount we gave to the other libraries established under Libraries for Literacy initiative.
Our contributions to these libraries and other projects go beyond the dollars we donate.  San Juan Rotarians serve as volunteers, board members or officials not only of the libraries, but also for many other civic organizations such as the YMCA of San Juan, the YWCA, Junior Achievement, United Way, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and others. In addition, many executive directors of these civic organizations have been active and important members of San Juan Rotary.
2006-15 – Matenwa Community Learning Center in Haiti. Our sponsored Commonwealth High School Interact Club initiated a project that resulted in a 10-year joint involvement. With the Rotary Club of Skidaway Island, Georgia and the Rotary Foundation, the total project involved an investment of $160,000, including $55,000 for operations and disaster relief. The project commenced with our Club’s $2,000 matching donation for the Commonwealth Interact Club’s carwash fundraiser for the Mattenwa Community Center in Haiti. The Interact Club contributed over $40,000, or 25% of the total with its ongoing annual fundraiser, “Heart for Haiti.” The project demonstrates the power of the Rotary collaboration and matching fund process available for worthy community projects abroad and at home. Projects can also be mid-sized, such as the Peer Leadership and Depression Prevention project brought to us by the Wellesley Rotary Club involving a 2015 Rotary Foundation Global Grant of $35,000. With the matching funds from the Wellesley Club and our respective districts, we were able to bring the program to three schools in Puerto Rico: Robinson, TASIS Dorado, and Santa Gema, located in San Juan, Dorado and Ponce, respectively.   San Juan Rotary has always been the District leader in total annual funds raised for the Rotary Foundation, but we needed to improve in terms of total participation by the members of our Club. In 2017-18 we became a 100%-member participation club, just in time for our 100th anniversary celebration!     
Prepared by Jorge R. González, past President and San Juan Rotarian
Edited by Anne and Ron Chevako (Ron is a past President of San Juan Rotary and a past President and current member of the Rotary Club of Dorado).