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April 12, 2011 > Niles Rotary Club

Niles Rotary Club

Submitted By Sandi Pantages

The Niles Rotary Club was founded on December 9, 1937 in the Niles district of then Washington Township. Sponsored by the Hayward Rotary Club, it was the first Rotary club in southern Alameda County. Charles (Chuck) Kraft was the charter president. The club had 16 charter members and soon grew to 60 members.

Community service has been a continuing focus of Niles Rotary, and the club "builds community" in a variety of ways. According to Gladys Williamson, local historian, members of Niles Rotary initiated the incorporation process in the 1950s for what later became the Tri-Cities. Many club members were represented in the beginning governments of the cities they helped create, Fremont, Newark, and Union City, serving as mayors, council members, commissioners, and other board members.

Niles Rotary has left its mark in the community in many ways in addition to its support of Fremont's formation. Niles Rotarians were instrumental in the formation of the Washington Hospital District, from proposing the district in 1947, to serving on the hospital staff and hospital boards over the years. Niles Rotary has itself founded several other Rotary clubs in the area, including Newark Rotary in 1961, Fremont Rotary in 1963, and Fremont Sunrise in 1991.

Hands-on projects by Niles Rotary have resulted in community improvements in Fremont such as the Central Park par course, the boat dock and fishing pier at Lake Elizabeth, stock corrals at Ardenwood Farm, flagpoles at the City Government building and Tak Stadium and benches at bus stops. An ongoing community service project of Niles Rotary is the care of the Niles Community Park, replacing or refurbishing fishing docks, cleaning the park on a regular basis and other projects to benefit the park.

Since 1937, Niles Rotary has raised funds in a variety of ways, from pancake breakfasts to auctions, and has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to many community organizations and services, including the Fremont/Newark YMCA, Fremont Symphony Orchestra, Tri-City Salvation Army, Fremont Education Foundation, Young Life, Fremont Cultural Arts Council, the Tri-City Homeless Coalition (now Abode Services), Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments (SAVE), Tri-City Health Center, youth activities and sports, scholarships, and the Washington Hospital Healthcare Foundation. Niles Rotary sponsors Interact clubs (high school Rotary service clubs) at Washington and Fremont Christian High Schools.

In addition to assisting the local community, Niles Rotary has cared for the international community through projects of Rotary International and its own international projects. When Rotary International developed a campaign to end polio worldwide, Niles Rotarians donated heavily and have continuously supported the End Polio Now campaign. Niles Rotary collected the funds necessary to send an entire cargo container of 280 wheelchairs overseas through the Wheelchair Foundation, providing the gift of mobility to hundreds of people.

Specific international programs sponsored by Niles Rotary include building a computer lab, and sending physicians to perform corrective surgery in Fremont's sister city of Puerto Penasco, Mexico; refurbishing and donating buses to an orphanage also in Mexico; furnishing x-ray machines and funding a computer lab for a girl's school in Brazil; providing a breast screening program and mammography units to the Azores; sending heart monitors to two hospitals in Romania; and giving two ambulances with the necessary equipment to Lebanon. Current international service projects include refurbishing an orphanage in Chile, and sponsoring the medical education of a physician in Kenya.

The works of the Rotary Club of Niles are seemingly endless over the many years since their incorporation as a Rotary Club. The Club has indeed made a difference in Fremont and in the world at large through their acts of humanitarian service.

For information about the Rotary Club of Niles (Fremont) visit the web site at

Each year the Ohlone College Foundation hosts a Citizen of the Year Luncheon to honor a group, organization, or individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the community providing important services and contributing significantly to the progress or improvement of our community. This year, the Foundation Board has chosen to honor the six Rotary Clubs of the Tri-Cities as the 2011 Citizen of the Year. The Citizen of the Year Champagne Luncheon is the last major social event before summer for community members in Fremont, Newark, and Union City. Held on Saturday, June 4, 2011 at the beautiful Ohlone College Newark Center on Cherry Street in Newark, the luncheon highlights the many accomplishments of the service-minded individuals that make up the local Rotary clubs.

Rotary Clubs are part of an international service organization made up of business and professional leaders, with individual clubs located all over the world. Each club is organized and chartered separately to serve in its community as well as to contribute to the international mission of Rotary. The stated purpose of Rotary International is to provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill in the community. There are 33,976 clubs and over 1.22 million members worldwide. This article is one of a six part series describing the often unrecognized accomplishments of each of these clubs, leading up to the Citizen of the Year Luncheon held at the Ohlone College Newark Center on Saturday, June 4, at noon.

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